The Justice Secretary has pledged to change legal aid legislation following a London Evening Standard campaign.
Chris Grayling praised the title for exposing “tens of millions of pounds” of taxpayers’ money being spent on legal aid for the wealthy.
He said that following the Standard’s campaign he was determined to stop the practice and that preventative legislation would be put in place.
The Standard, which hailed the news as a “victory for the taxpayer”, revealed that 49 “Mr Bigs” had received £14.3m over the past threes.
A series of revelations showed that recipients, including “crime bosses, drugs barons, and fraudsters”, were claiming taxpayer-funded legal aid because of a rule stating that assets held “under restraint” – frozen pending prosecution – are not counted into a suspect’s wealth.
According to the paper this meant that “defendants with multi-million pound homes, yachts, jets and other possessions” are being deemed penniless while an average man on £26,000 per year would have to pay a contribution to theirs.
Grayling said: “Why should millionaires get tax-payer-funded legal advice? It’s a question that the Evening Standard has long been asking.
“It’s a flaw in the system that the Evening Standard has consistently highlighted. And it’s something I’m determined to put a stop to.
“Wealthy defendants who can afford to contribute to their legal aid should be forced to do so, just like anyone else who faces criminal proceedings.”