Fears over legal aid changes

High Peak MP Andrew Bingham with Kirsten Collings and David Parkes of Bakers Solicitors.

High Peak MP Andrew Bingham with Kirsten Collings and David Parkes of Bakers Solicitors.

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High Peak defendants could be forced to travel to Chesterfield or Derby to speak to their solicitor under controversial changes to the legal aid system, it is feared.

Among the changes put forward by the government is a proposal to reduce the number of contracts for solicitors to represent defendants in police stations and magistrates courts from 1,600 to 400. Law firms would have to tender for the contract and there could potentially be just four contracts to cover the whole of Derbyshire.

Local solicitors are now fearing that the contracts will go to the bigger firms in Derby and Chesterfield, leaving High Peak residents struggling to see their representatives.

High Peak MP Andrew Bingham was invited to Bakers Solicitors last Glossop on Friday to discuss the issues.

Kirsten Collings, partner at Bakers, said: “If the proposals stay as they are, it takes away client choice and it will limit the number of providers significantly. It could result in there being no legal aid providers in the High Peak.”

Mr Bingham added: “There are concerns about creating a rural desert and having spoken to (Justice Minister) Chris Grayling, he is quite receptive to the concerns and is going to go away and see what can be done.”

A consultation into the proposals has now closed.