“Today the Legal Aid, Sentencing & Punishment of Offenders Bill will receive its Royal Assent. During its progress, the Government were defeated a record 14 times on their unfair and tawdry Bill.
“The onslaught on our precious legal aid system is an act of vandalism for which this Tory-led Government will be forever remembered. We offered alternative savings but these were rejected. Funding of our vital grass roots advice network – our CABs, law centres and high street firms – is threatened. This will expose the most vulnerable in our society drowning with debt, housing and welfare benefit problems to the full force of the law, without any of the crucial early stage advice and support that’s proven to make a real difference, and ultimately save the taxpayer money down the line.
“Despite a few bits of common sense that Labour fought for inclusion, such as proposals on metal theft, creation of an offence of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, and putting on the statute Jane’s Law on appeals against bail decisions, overall the Bill dismantles the sentencing infrastructure for the most serious and violent offenders, allows people with histories of witness intimidation out on bail and lets the most serious criminal and sexual offenders hide their pasts to new employers.
“I pay tribute to the Labour team in both houses, the Crossbenchers, those principled enough to oppose their own Government, the late Lord Newton of Braintree who fought so valiantly right to his last days and the alliance of fantastically dedicated and experienced campaign groups – all of whom resisted with all their energy this out of touch Government’s onslaught on access to justice.”