Lord Bach: Civil Legal Aid – a disaster area?

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Legal aid is a welfare provision for people who could otherwise not afford counsel from the legal system. Legal aid was originally established by the Legal Aid and Advice Act, 1949.

Legal aid is regarded as central in providing access to justice by ensuring equality before the law, the right to counsel and the right to a fair trial. Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that: “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.”

The United Nations state that this principle is particularly important to minorities and to the poor.

Everyone must be treated equally under the law regardless of their race, gender, national origin, color, ethnicity, religion, disability, or other characteristics, without privilege, discrimination, or bias.

Labour peer Lord Bach has accused the previous of Government of jeopardising social welfare through changes made to legal aid entitlement and has urged ministers to review the legislation.

This article was originally published on PoliticsHome on June 10, reproduced here with thanks:

Part 1 of LASPO has been in force for two years. In that time, many of our most vulnerable citizens have been unable to receive legal advice and assistance to help them with problems in areas of housing, debt, employment, immigration, and welfare benefits. Not only have they been deprived access to justice, but these problems are now being allowed the opportunity to escalate leading to possible greater costs when the state has to intervene. On top of this, eleven law centres have had to close, making it even more difficult for the poorest to get justice, and providers of social welfare law have declined in numbers, as without legal aid, both law centres and solicitors firms have been deprived of a large amount of income.

Two recent reports – one from the House of Commons Justice Select Committee, the other from the Public Accounts Committee – have carefully described the failings of the LASPO Act in convincing terms. The government is yet to indicate when it will respond to these reports. This was legislation which even the Permanent Secretary at Ministry of Justice conceded began without the usual preliminary research being done. It was just a way to save money and damn the consequences. Unfortunately the consequences are deadly serious for citizens, for providers and not least for the reputation of the English legal system.

It is time for a thorough review. My question in the Lords today will urge Ministers to instigate this at once. The ‘exceptional cases’ provision which was supposed to pick up cases that should receive legal aid but couldn’t because of the Act has failed miserably. The Minister of Justice estimate regarding how many exceptional cases there would be has proved laughably high.

Perhaps most disturbing of all is that in those few areas where legal aid is still available under the Act, the take-up has been decreasing.

This is nothing to do with lack of demand for advice. But with people just not knowing that support is still available. The Minister of Justices’ overall savings in this field have also exceeded expectation. Surely it is time to put some of that money back into helping people at a difficult time in their lives?

Social Welfare Law has moved a long way towards being destroyed. It is now time for the government to take stock and begin to restore what was only a few years ago one of the jewels in the crown of English Justice.


Related

Children are being denied justice and their human rights by legal aid cuts

Devastating blow to Grayling as judges halt his legal aid reform

The coming tyranny and the Legal Aid bill

The government’s Legal Aid cuts are leaving vulnerable people with nowhere to turn

7005_494073677328832_658777491_n (1)Pictures courtesy of Robert Livingstone.

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8 thoughts on “Lord Bach: Civil Legal Aid – a disaster area?

  1. This evil minded government pushing people in the gutter of life while enjoying enhanced wealth and bleeding the social find for crony’s benefit. These people are the biggest scroungers we’ve known for a hundred years. It’s shameful and unforgiveable, and there’s not enough protest over a new imoral class.

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  2. Reblogged this on | truthaholics and commented:
    From ruling the waves to waiving the rules as Grayling’s swingeing cuts are followed up by Gove’s hatchet jobs. The blind leading the blind clearly is degenerating into the foxes running the hen house.

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  3. don’t forget all the welfare rights/unemployed workers centres etc that have been forced to close through lack of funding too. they along with law centres were the major source of help in the welfare fields 20 years and more ago. i worked in one as an adviser for 5 years.and kept in touch for years after i left, with former colleagues who still worked there there till its closure 2/3 years ago.

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    1. Yes, that’s a point Lord Bach seems to have missed, but I think I wrote about it in one of the related blogs.

      The thing is, there is no way the Conservative’s attack on welfare and legal aid are incidental: this was a VERY planned and coordinated attack on welfare and civil’ rights, and it seems to me it was planned by the Tories long before 2010, too. It’s too coherent and overwhelming to be anything other than purposeful and utterly intentional. But the Tories have always hated our post-war settlement, and have long wanted it dismantled.

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