Not once does the word “innocent” appear in the Ministry of Justice’s 161-page proposal to remove legal aid from defendants. The British right is no more troubled by the notion that citizens are innocent until proved guilty than it is by the thought that wealth should not determine access to the law, or that the police can fit up suspects or that the state can behave unjustly and that the best way to keep it honest is to expose it to constant scrutiny.
You hear the powerful’s impatience with accountability everywhere in the statements of ministers. “What we mustn’t do is just leave untouched a system that has grown astonishingly, making the poor extremely litigious,” said Ken Clarke when he was justice secretary. Defendants don’t need a “Rolls-Royce” service, says his successor, Chris Grayling. Trust the benevolence of the bureaucracy, they seem to whisper. Believe in its procedures. No one but cunning criminals or greedy lawyers objects to protecting it from challenge in the courts.