MP Nigel Evans legal aid rethink after costly defense

By Neil Logan

MP Nigel Evans, who was cleared of a number of sexual charges, has said that he has had to re-think his stance on legal aid cuts after spending his life savings on defending the charges against him.

Mr Evans has been left with a £130,000 legal bill which he says has eaten up his entire life savings. As well as other issues which he believes need looked at in respect of cases such as his, he now says that the legal aid cuts in England and Wales need to be reconsidered. He says that reducing the amount of legal aid available any further puts people at risk of not being able to mount an adequate defence to charges they are facing, and also leaves them the prospect of having to pay huge sums just to clear their name.

He believes that anyone who faces charges and is found not guilty should be able to have the cost of their full legal fees reimbursed to them out of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) budget. At the moment, anyone in England and Wales who is acquitted of a charge can apply to have some of their fees refunded out of a central fund, which is essentially paid for by the taxpayer. The amount they receive is limited to the amount they would have been provided via legal aid.

Mr Evans confessed that but for the experience of his own case he would probably have voted to cut legal aid further, but says he is now aware of the "first-hand consequences" of not making legal aid readily available to those who need it.

If you require legal aid assistance, and want to speak to a solicitor in Northern Ireland about your payment options, contact Wilson Nesbitt in Belfast by calling 0800 840 0546.