Tory social cleansing risks returning legal aid to Dark Ages
Thompsons’ Solicitors have called for an urgent review of the government’s policies on civil legal aid in order to prevent the legal system falling further back into the Dark Ages
The Conservative-led government’s changes to legal aid have, on almost all measures, been a failure, according to a report from the Justice Select Committee.
The report from the cross-party committee states that the government’s civil legal aid policy – part of its controversial Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) – has failed to meet three of its four stated objectives: to target legal aid at those who need it the most; to discourage unnecessary litigation; and to improve value for money for the taxpayer.
The Justice Committee shows that the changes to legal aid – designed to be part of cuts of £2bn from the overall Justice budget – are in fact preventing many people from accessing justice, particularly vulnerable groups such as children, the unemployed, victims of domestic violence and those on benefits.
Tom Jones, head of policy at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “We, like most lawyers, have been consistently warning of the pernicious effects of these huge and ill thought out changes. The Conservative obsession with austerity, assisted at every vote by the Lib Dems, has seen changes that strike at the heart of what is a fundamental right: to be able to access the civil justice system regardless of one’s wealth.
“Do we really want to back to an age where it was only those with money or connections who brought cases to court? The current coalition’s obsession with cutting budgets has overridden any pretence to have a justice system which works effectively for all, where the merits of a case are decided by the courts not by the depths of a litigant’s pockets.”
“Meanwhile, the proposals to increase court fees by over 600% is, alongside fees in Employment Tribunals, yet another blatant attempt of social cleansing by pricing people out of justice. The Conservatives and the Lib Dems will talk of there being access but it now comes at such a price that people on an average wage simply can’t afford it. It’s a recipe for exploitation.”