New measures launched today will see those criminals who deliberately cheat the system and leave taxpayers to foot their legal aid bill, despite being able to pay, face having their cars seized.
Under the scheme the Legal Aid Agency will now be able to apply to clamp any vehicles identified as belonging to the defendant. After conviction the LAA can then go back to court for permission to sell the car, putting money raised towards unpaid legal aid costs.
The new Motor Vehicle Orders scheme will allow Enforcement action to be taken against those who have been assessed as having sufficient financial means to contribute towards their own legal aid costs, but have then failed to make the payments owed.
Measures introduced on 1 April 2013 saw changes to the process to prevent criminals from failing to participate in means testing assessments.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said:
‘Convicted criminals have cheated innocent taxpayers for too long by dodging requirements to contribute to the legal costs of their defence. I am determined that where they can pay, they will pay.
‘Legal aid is not free – it is taxpayers’ money. We must bring down the cost of legal aid and our starting point has to be that law-abiding citizens don’t foot the bill when those concerned could pay themselves.
‘With £34 million owed to taxpayers from the last three years alone, it’s time to get tough. I am clear - you can’t avoid paying your legal aid bill and expect to keep a fancy car on the driveway.’