A COLCHESTER solicitor has warned innocent people could be sent to jail as a result of plans to cut legal aid.

Anthony Wooding said his firm Kerseys Solicitors, which has an office in The Crescent, in Colchester Business Park, has had to turn away potential customers following cuts to civil legal aid.

And he fears slashing £220million from the criminal legal aid budget could have worse consequences.

Mr Wooding, who has worked in civil and criminal law for 30 years, said: “The criminal justice could fall into disrepute if people aren’t represented.

“Cuts to civil aid mean we are not always able to help vulnerable people with regard to matters such as family law or housing.

“But cutting criminal legal aid could have even more devastating consequences, with innocent people potentially being locked up.”

He added: “People will have theoretical rights but no practical means of enforcing them.

“If legal aid goes, we'll have a legal system that just works for rich people and will cause further inequality."

The changes to the civil law aid system, which came into effect in April, means cases covering child contact, welfare, employment and clinical negligence can no longer be publicly funded.

It also means law firms would ‘bid to win’ eligible cases, with the lowest bid being chosen.

The Ministry of Justice has said legal aid costs taxpayers too much and it cannot be "immune" to efficiency commitments.

It has also stated after the cuts, the system will still be one of the most generous in the world.