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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 May, 2005, 10:59 GMT 11:59 UK
Legal aid overhaul plan unveiled
Police outside Bow Street magistrates'
Ministers fear the growing costs of criminal defence threaten legal aid
An attempt to save 35m in legal aid by overhauling the criminal defence service has been unveiled by ministers in the post election Queen's Speech.

The Criminal Defence Service Bill aims to balance value for money with "maintaining the quality" of legal advice for those accused of a crime.

Ministers fear the costs of criminal defence threaten legal aid as a whole.

The bill would reintroduce the means test for criminal cases in magistrates' courts.

Those who can afford to pay for their own defence will have to do so but if they are subsequently cleared they will be able to recover their costs.

The Criminal Defence Service budget is currently 1.1bn.

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