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The Government has announced a consultation to analyse whether or not access to justice has been restricted by the cuts to Legal Aid. The LAPSO reforms were introduced in 2013 and were intended to save around £450 million a year.
The consultation will go run into summer 2018. It is expected to consider whether the intended savings were indeed made and whether individual’s access to justice has been restricted as a result.
In a written statement to parliament, Justice Secretary David Liddington said: “Our legal aid system is a fundamental pillar of access to justice, accounting for more than a fifth of the Ministry of Justice’s budget….the reforms … were founded on delivering better value for money for taxpayers by reducing the cost of the scheme and discouraging unnecessary and adversarial litigation, while ensuring that legal aid continues to be available for the highest priority cases, for example where life or liberty is at stake, where someone faces the loss of their home, in domestic violence cases, or where their children may be taken into care.”
Speaking following the Government announcement, Joe Egan, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, said: “[Laspo] meant hundreds of thousands of people eligible for legal aid on 31 March 2013 became ineligible the very next day. Even those ... whom parliament vowed at the time of Laspo should be able to access legal help are unable to get the advice and representation they need…This post-implementation appraisal by government is long-awaited and needs to be comprehensive ... If people cannot access advice or protect their rights, then effectively those rights do not exist.”
Since the introduction of the cuts, they have received widespread criticism from solicitors, barristers, the Judiciary and charities alike. At Ramsdens, we have seen the impact that such cuts to legal aid have had on people. We have encountered countless situations when we have had to say “we are sorry but you are not eligible for legal aid” to a parent who is seeking contact to their child or to a victim of domestic violence. The review of such cuts is long awaited. We can only hope that such a Review will demonstrate to the government that true access to Justice is simply not being fulfilled.
At Ramsdens we are accredited members of Resolution, expert family law specialists. If you wish to discuss a family law issue please do not hesitate to contact one of our expert family lawyers at any of our offices across West Yorkshire. You can call us free on 08000 147720 to book your free 30 minute consultation.