Legal aid cuts “threat to democracy”

Legal aid cuts “threat to democracy”

More than 100 judges, peers, prominent lawyers and doctors working in the civil and criminal justice system have called on the incoming government to restore legal aid to prevent “widespread miscarriages of justice.”

In an open letter to the ‘Guardian’ last Saturday, the signatories – who include former appeal court judges, a chief inspector of prisons and a reviewer of terrorism legislation – condemn cuts made by the coalition government for depriving “hundreds of thousands of people” access to justice.

The letter warns that without recourse to the courts, “inequalities take on a more dangerous edge which threaten the legitimacy of not just the justice system but our democracy”.

The plea of the 138 professionals, who represent a broad alliance of those working within the courts, reflects a collective anxiety that the issue of legal aid has not been raised adequately during the election campaign.

The letter was organised by solicitors Rhona Friedman of the Justice Alliance and Zoe Gascoyne of the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association (CLSA). Ian Lawrence, general secretary of the probation union Napo, as well as a large number of psychiatrists and clinical psychologists who work in the courts, have also added their names.

The signatories assert: “The huge increase in employment tribunal fees has meant that people without deep pockets have little to no protection against unscrupulous employers. We know that cuts disproportionately affect women and, sure enough, the government’s own figures show an 80% drop in the number of women taking employment cases to tribunal. Funding in family law cases dropped by 60%, causing a predicted rise in unrepresented defendants, a trend now also starting to be seen in the criminal courts.

“What the figures do not convey is the sheer human misery of being unable to get legal advice. GPs report a large increase in the number of patients who would have been assisted by advice on benefits, employment, debts and housing. Cuts to legal aid are literally making people sick.”

The letter continues: “With cuts and debilitating restructuring comes the spectre of advice deserts, widespread miscarriages of justice, hundreds of thousands denied redress and the draining of the talent pool of future lawyers and judges as young people increasingly choose a career away from civil and criminal law.”

Robin Murray of the CLSA, who has also signed the letter, said: “YouGov polling shows that 89% of the public believe access to justice, underpinned by legal aid, is a fundamental right. The legal experts and opinion formers who have added their signatures to the letter recognise this and know that if the current reforms are kept in place equality before the law will become a distant memory.”

The letter concludes: “We call upon the next government to abandon the highly controversial restructuring of criminal defence, restore legal help to the many currently without redress and to establish a royal commission to investigate the current crisis regarding the diminution of access to justice. In addition we call for an independent body to review legal aid rates, including expert witness rates so as to depoliticise them and instead move to an evidence-based approach to ensure public need is adequately met in the provision of legal services.”

This post was written by:

- who has written 462 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

Contact the author

More articles in this category:

Leave a Reply

Be first to get Legal News

Full Name
Email *
Enter the following to confirm your subscription *
advert

Follow Us on Twitter


Archives

Article Categories

Tags

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