June 8, 2006

No Legal Aid for ‘Terrorists’?

Posted in legal aid, terrorism at 8:13 am by thelawthoughts

Reports are around that terrorism suspects' lawyers have had their legal aid funding withdrawn, because the lawyers must submit to security clearances.

This is a great example of how bad laws, passed in a hurry, have unintended consequences.

It is unforgivable that in a society such as ours, legal aid can be withdrawn from defendants because the risk to the funding body of having a case stopped is too high to make the case viable for that funding body. Security checks for the lawyers is crazy. They are lawyers. Their security status has no bearing on their ability to defend a prosecution. What, are they worried the lawyers are going to blow up the Supreme Court?

If they are dodgy lawyers who are a threat to security, how on earth does this affect whether they should represent a defendant? Being dodgy and not undergoing a security clearance didn't stop Zara Garde-Wilson or George Defteros defending clients. The security status of the lawyer has no bearing on the conduct of the trial.

Legal Aid should not be put in a position where it is willing to provide assistance to defendants who, in this case at least, are generally assumed guilty regardless of their trial but is forced to consider the wasted costs involved in a negative securityclearance.