Tag Archive | "civil legal aid cuts"

Law Society submissions to the Bach Review


The ‘Gazette’ reports that the Law Society is considering how an innovation fund could help legal aid solicitors harness new technology to improve access to justice.

In a submission to the Labour party’s legal aid review, the Society said there was “scope for innovation” among solicitors to produce “bespoke technological solutions that reflect their businesses and meet the needs of their clients.”

Inevitably there are doubts whether solicitors could afford the investment required. “The Society is therefore looking into whether there might be scope for an innovation fund, whereby grant funders would make grants to firms that have ideas for ways of using technology to improve access to justice,” the submission states.

In its submission to the review, the Society identifies the Partnership Initiative Budget, which operated under the former Legal Services Commission, as a precedent. “We are still in the early stages of considering this idea, but our initial thinking is that such a fund might be generated from a combination of private, third sector and public sector sources,” the submission states.

The Society also suggests that alternative approaches to civil legal aid remuneration should be considered. “We believe it is worth looking again at the fundamental point that legal aid currently works on the basis of paying individually for each of millions of pieces of advice provided.”

The submission points out that “there is a precedent in the form of the old block contracting system for the not-for-profit sector where the provider was remunerated on the basis of caseworker hours rather than for each individual case.”

The Law Society also warned that civil legal aid cuts will result in an increase in costs to the tax payer because failure to get early expert legal advice can result in people’s problems escalating dramatically, when they could have been nipped in the bud.

Law Society president Jonathan Smithers said: “Successive governments have repeatedly cut back the legal aid budget and this review provides a crucial opportunity to consider the fundamental question of how to restore and protect access to justice for everyone in the 21st century, regardless of their economic circumstances.”

Smithers said: ‘There is an imbalance of power and knowledge when legal advice is solely available to wealthy individuals, corporations and state bodies, and not to ordinary people. There are significant cost savings for society if people can obtain expert legal advice and representation,” adding that “early legal advice can forestall an escalating sequence of problems that in extreme cases can result in issues like homelessness. Prompt intervention can also help people to find a solution that doesn’t involve the courts.”

“The current legal aid system needs reform,” he said. “The capital means test for benefit claimants and evidential burdens for domestic violence determine who qualifies for legal aid help. These are preventing victims of domestic abuse from accessing legal aid in family cases. When no other realistic option exists for someone to assert their legal rights, funding from government must be available.”

‘Technology can improve access to justice, but proposals for digital courts will not remove the need for solicitors, who play a vital role in overcoming the barriers that people face in obtaining justice,” he said.

Labour is to present the findings of Lord Bach’s legal aid review at this year’s party conference in the Autumn.

Posted in Civil Law, Legal AidComments (0)

Justice committee criticises civil legal aid cuts


When examined by the House of Commons public accounts committee, leading civil servants at the Ministry of Justice admitted that they did not have the time to research the potential impact of cuts to legal aid included in LAPSO. Permanent Secretary Ursula Brennan confessed “The piece of evidence that was overwhelming was the level of spending. The evidence required was that government said we wish to cut the legal aid bill.”

Committee chair Margaret Hodge accused the department of ‘endemic failure’. “The thing that really distressed me is how you embarked on this with so little evidence,” she said. “When you were changing the rules you had no idea the impact it would have.” Read the full story

Posted in Civil Law, Legal AidComments (0)


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