HC Deb 22 March 1982 vol 20 c686
39. Mr. Dubs

asked the Attorney-General if he will take steps to improve the arrangements for access to legal aid and representation by persons under 21 years who are defendants at juvenile or magistrates' courts.

The Attorney-General

I am not aware of any significant defects in the current arrangements, but if the hon. Member knows of any particular aspects of this question which trouble him and will write to me, I will see that he receives a considered reply.

Mr. Dubs

I thank the Attorney-General for his offer to deal with any matter by letter. Is he not dissatisfied with the large number of young people who appear before the courts on criminal charges, without legal representation? Is that not tantamount to denying those people elementary justice?

The Attorney-General

If it is a serious offence, or an offence in which there might be a custodial sentence, legal aid is almost always granted. It is of interest that in the Legal Aid Bill before another place, the Lord Chancellor has indicated his support for the duty solicitor scheme. Provision is being made in that Bill for it to be extended. That will be a great help in the sort of case that the hon. Gentleman is thinking of.

Mr. Anderson

How seriously does the Attorney-General view the considerable variation between magistrates' courts in the granting of legal aid?

The Attorney-General

That matter has exercised my right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Chancellor. The evidence at the moment is pretty scanty and he will undertake a survey which I hope will be reporting in the autumn on that subject.