[JURIST] British Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer [official profile] Wednesday proposed a plan to cut the length of criminal trials and reduce the costs of legal aid [Legal Services backgrounder], which have risen by a third since the Labor Party took power in 1997. Under Falconer's proposal, lawyers will have to bid for contracts to take legal aid cases and then pay costs themselves if a trial runs overtime. The money saved by shortening criminal cases would go towards civil legal aid like family hearings. Civil rights groups like Liberty [press release] are nonetheless concerned that the proposal could lead to cases being rushed through the courts, possibly resulting in wrongful convictions and bad sentencing. The Bar Council, which represents barristers, has generally welcomed the proposal but in a press release Wednesday called for proper funding for trial preparation, suggesting that lawyers were themselves often victims of delay. BBC News has more.