Erosion of people’s access to justice through Legal Aid cuts is “a betrayal of the most vulnerable in our society”.
That was the message from Liverpool Law Society president Alistair Fletcher at the group’s annual dinner held at the city’s Britannia Adelphi hotel.
Mr Fletcher, from Liverpool law firm Brabners, said: “It’s all looking pretty bleak for criminal and other publicly-funded practitioners.
“It is all part of Mr Grayling’s (Justice Secretary Chris Grayling) Brave New World.
“As a local Law Society we believe everyone should have access to justice regardless of their means.
“Any erosion of that access is a betrayal of the most vulnerable in our society.”
Mr Fletcher’s speech followed that of Lord Michael Heseltine, who was sent by Government to the city to encourage enterprise in the area after the Toxteth riots in 1981.
The Liverpool Law Society president added: “I qualified in 1981 the same year as the Toxteth riots.
“Lord Heseltine helped us look forward.
“Of course life is still tough in the Liverpool city jungle – but there is so much to be positive about.”
Mr Fletcher encouraged lawyers and professionals in the room to play a role in hosting events during the International Festival for Business being held in Liverpool next year and thanked Lord Heseltine for first suggesting the idea of such a festival.
During his speech, Lord Heseltine reflected on his time in Liverpool during the 1980s.
He said: “Above all else it was about a city which had lost faith.
“There was no one in charge.
“Everybody knew whose fault it was and it wasn’t theirs.”
He send spending time in Liverpool in 1981 taught him “a lot about how it’s leadership that matters”.
Looking at how the city has changed since then, Lord Heseltine spoke of the large increase in hotel rooms over the last few years and said: “It’s a city where no one questions it’s going up and up.
“You are the ones who will lead this great city on the up.
“There’s no need any more for politicians to come and stoke up the fire.”
The speeches by Lord Heseltine and Mr Fletcher were followed by a four-course meal before guests heard from vice-president of Liverpool Law Society Glenys Hunt who thanked the sponsors of the event, Baker Tilly, DX and Wesleyan for Lawyers, as well as those who had attended.
Motivational speaker and communication expert Andy Bounds then took to the stage and encouraged everyone to work together to contribute to the future prosperity of the region.
He urged firms to discard “corporate blinkers” about the history of their companies when bidding for contracts and to instead tell potential clients what they could do to help them.
The evening concluded with music from live band Madison.
Post Business gave the Ministry of Justice the opportunity to respond to comments made during the dinner.
A spokesman said: “We agree Legal Aid is a vital part of our justice system and that's why we have to find efficiencies to ensure it remains sustainable and available to those most in need of a lawyer.”