3 Jun 2011

'Rumours spread' in legal aid row

12:42 pm on 3 June 2011

The chair of the Legal Services Agency says some members of the criminal bar are spreading misinformation about the Public Defence Service.

Sir John Hansen says there has been appalling and unprofessional behaviour from some members of the criminal bar.

He has heard that a few lawyers have hissed at and booed Public Defence Service staff because they think the expansion of the service will interfere with their caseload.

Sir John says some members of the criminal bar have been spreading rumours the service will pressure clients into pleading guilty.

But he says an independent study has shown the only difference in plea rates is that Public Defence Service clients tend to plead earlier, and several independent reviews have proven his staff to be competent.

A spokesperson for the criminal bar association, John Anderson, says he's not aware of any inappropriate behaviour by private lawyers.

He says he is sceptical whether the reviews cited by Sir John are truly independent.