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Tag Archive | "LASPO"

LASPO Review

At last the Ministry of Justice has announced that the government has set the ball rolling on the long-awaited review of its controversial legal aid reforms.

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO), which came into force in April 2013, made savage cuts to the scope of legal aid. Civil legal aid became no longer available for cases involving divorce, child custody, clinical negligence, welfare, employment, immigration, housing, debt, benefit and education.

At this week’s all-party parliamentary group meeting on legal aid, the justice minister Sir Oliver Heald QC, set out the government’s timetable for the review. A post-legislative memorandum on LASPO will be sent to the justice select committee before May, ahead of a full post-implementation review of the Act to be conducted by April 2018.

Sir Oliver said the government intended to work closely with the sector’s stakeholders over the course of the full post-implementation review in order to inform its conclusions. “We intend to outline our plans in more detail about a review when we present the memorandum to parliament. What we envisage is that the memorandum and review will provide us with a robust evidence-based picture of the current legal aid landscape and how it has changed since LASPO.”

Heald said that the ministry plans to submit a post-legislative memorandum on LASPO ‘as a whole’ to the justice select committee. This process has to be done by May but he said the ministry hopes to do it before then. He added that the memorandum will cover the whole act, including part one. “It will look at how the Act has been affected by litigation, how it was implemented, and will consider the various reviews of legal aid that have taken place since LASPO, by bodies such as the National Audit Office and others,” said Sir Oliver. “This will lead to an initial assessment of the extent to which changes to legal aid met their objectives, which is the test for a post-legislative memorandum.”

He added: “We intend to outline our plans in more detail about a review when we present the memorandum to parliament. What we envisage is that the memorandum and review will provide us with a robust evidence-based picture of the current legal aid landscape and how it has changed since LASPO.” Heald said the government intends to work ‘closely and collaboratively’ with other parties. It will outline more detailed plans about the review when it presents the memorandum to parliament.

Cuts to legal aid have left many without access to justice. One of the effects of reduced legal aid is the rise in the number of litigants in person, which has caused an increase in court delays. The number of people going to court without a lawyer has been rising since access to legal aid was cut. The less well off and those with children are more heavily represented in those litigating in person than any other group. Reductions in legal advice services raise grave concerns about the creation of “advice deserts” and vulnerable people unable to get the advice they desperately need.

Research by the charity Citizens Advice has revealed that the stress, responsibility and loneliness of going to court without representation can mean ‘Litigants in person’ (LiPS) achieve worse outcomes compared with their represented counterparts.

It also showed 90% of people who had been LiPS found the experience negatively affected their health, relationships, work or finances. Figures from the MoJ in October 2016 reveal that in 80% of family court cases, at least one individual had no lawyer.

Posted in Legal AidComments (0)

Review of legal aid for people trafficking victims

The Lord Chancellor has agreed to conduct an urgent review of legal aid provisions for people bringing compensation claims against their traffickers.

LASPO made legal aid available for victims of trafficking to bring compensation claims against those who exploited them, for example as employment matters. However, when LASPO came into force, the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) didn’t include such claims within a mainstream contract category, instead bundling them into the “miscellaneous” category along with around 20 other types of case. Read the full story

Posted in Civil LibertiesComments (0)

Domestic violence legal aid time limit invalid

Last year the High Court rejected a legal challenge from domestic violence charity Rights of Women over the lawfulness of rules that require domestic violence victims to provide a prescribed form of evidence to apply for family law legal aid.

However, in The Queen (on the application of Rights of Women) v The Lord Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Justice, the Court of Appeal has upheld a challenge to the government’s changes to legal aid for victims of domestic violence. Read the full story

Posted in Civil Law, Law Updates, Legal AidComments (0)

“Access to justice should be considered a fundamental right” – Corbyn

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has called on the government to initiate an immediate review of cuts to civil legal aid.

The coalition government reduced the scope of civil legal aid through the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (Laspo) and has committed to a review of the policy by April 2018.

The reforms reduced spending on civil legal aid by £300m a year, but the National Audit Office last year said the wider costs to the public sector had not been factored in because the Ministry of Justice did not anticipate how people would respond to the changes.

Read the full story

Posted in Civil Law, Legal AidComments (0)

Senior judge condemns government’s ‘unprincipled and unconscionable’ behaviour

A senior judge has accused the government of washing its hands of the problem it has created by failing to provide legal aid for vulnerable parents in child custody cases.

The president of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, threatened to make the court itself pay for unrepresented parents battling to stop their child being put up for adoption. In his judgment in the case of two parents and Swindon Borough Council, he said “some state agency” should pay the costs of legal representation for the parents. Read the full story

Posted in Civil Law, Legal AidComments (0)

In-court advice centres

One of the many malign effects of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) was to put paid to the Citizen Advice Bureaux and other legal advice sources. The Act swept away entitlement to state-funded legal advice in family, employment, housing and welfare benefits, clinical negligence, immigration, education and other common civil legal cases.

As a direct result the family courts system is at breaking point due to delays caused by unrepresented litigants and overstretched judges. There has been a surge in the number of “litigants in person” – those who do not have lawyers to argue on their behalf. As many as 650,000 people have been deprived of support by changes to legal aid. Read the full story

Posted in Civil Law, Legal AidComments (0)

Public opposition to legal aid cuts

Public opposition to legal aid cuts is hardening, with fewer than one in four now backing the government’s austerity drive, according to an opinion poll released last week to mark the service’s 65th anniversary.

Since coming to power in 2010, ministers at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) have had a clear agenda of wanting to cut the legal aid budget as part of the government’s programme to reduce the public spending deficit. In April 2013, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012 introduced a radical reduction in the type of cases covered by the civil legal aid scheme. Read the full story

Posted in Legal AidComments (0)

Mayhem in court

The Judicial Executive Board comprises the most senior judges in England and Wales, including the Lord Chief Justice, the Master of the Rolls, the president of the Queen’s Bench, and the president of the family court.

What they say therefore carries weight. In a recent written submission to the Justice Committee Inquiry on Civil Legal Aid, the Judicial Executive Board imply that the Ministry of Justice’s policies aiming to reduce the legal aid bill have been counter-productive. Read the full story

Posted in Civil Law, Legal AidComments (0)

Client choice

It seems that client choice is following the path of so much else in the criminal legal system as it is threatened with being killed off in the proposed shake up of criminal legal aid.

Despite the fact we all believed this was protected in LASPO, it seems the minister allowed himself enough wriggle room and soon it will be like A&E, you simply get the first doctor to see you and no choice in the matter.

S.27 of LASPO says: Read the full story

Posted in Criminal JusticeComments (0)

Advice deserts

Last Monday civil legal aid became no longer available for cases involving divorce, child custody, clinical negligence, welfare, employment, immigration, housing, debt, benefit and education. Someone with an odd sense of humour decided that April 1st was an appropriate date. Read the full story

Posted in Law Updates, Legal AidComments (0)

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