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Ministry of Justice plans to cut legal aid for prisoners

Prisoners and convicted criminals could be denied access to legal aid to bring complaints against the prison system.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has announced the plans in a bid to save £4million a year and cut the number of cases brought by prisoners by 11,000.

Under the proposals, prisoners could be stopped from taking action over issues such as the category of prison they are held in, visiting rights and correspondence.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said: “I have been appalled that taxpayers pay millions of pounds every year supplying lawyers for prisoners to bring unnecessary legal cases.

“The vast majority of these types of complaint can and should be dealt with by the prison service’s complaints system.

“After years spiralling out of control, the amount spent of legal aid for prisoners is being tackled. Legal aid must be preserved for those most in need and where a lawyer’s services are genuinely needed.”

The latest plans come after reforms to legal aid came into effect on 1st April as the Government moves to reduce its £2.2bn legal aid bill by £350m.

Andrew Neilson, from the Howard League for Penal Reform, has criticised the latest move.

He said: “The Government’s proposals to further curtail legal aid for prisoners are profoundly unfair and will have negative consequences for society as a whole.

“The misuse of solitary confinement can exacerbate mental health problems and lead to lost lives.

“Access to behavioural programmes or help with resettlement can mean the difference between a prisoner going on to change their life for the better or to re-offend.

“An internal complaints system is no replacement for external scrutiny by the courts, while the already stretched prison ombudsman does not have the power to provide meaningful redress.”

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