Legal Aid Cuts a 'False Economy'
Legal aid cuts are a ‘false economy’ denying justice to 620,000 people
More than 620,000 people, 80% of whom are the most disadvantaged in society, have been denied access to justice because of the coalition’s so-called ‘reforms’ to the legal aid system and this is a ‘false economy’.
Unfortunately Labour shadow Justice minister sadiq Kahn has announced that Labour 'cannot' reverse the £600 million Tory legal aid cuts making this Unite campaign all the more important. He has however pledged that restrictions on judicial review will be repealed and freedom of information requests expanded to cover private companies who do public service work. He has also said he will review the eligibility test that victims of domestic violence must pass to obtain legal aid to pay for representation.
‘Magna Carta today?’ a new report published jointly by Unite and Goldsmiths, University of London outlines a seven point plan to give greater access to justice to the thousands of people hit by the government’s Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO)
Despite LASPO taking account of women experiencing domestic violence, extremely vulnerable women are still being denied access to justice.
‘Reforms’ have been presented as a way of saving £350 million of public money on legal aid, but the reality has been very different, as costs have simply been shifted onto other parts of the public purse – and have turned out to be a false economy. These reforms have therefore been seriously counterproductive in financial terms, as well as fundamentally unjust.
The ‘reforms’ have hit providers of legal aid, such as citizens’ advice bureaux and law centres, with closures and job losses.
For every £1 spent on legal advice and aid, the state saves around £6 on other forms of spending, including spending as a result of families becoming homeless and children being taken into care.
If you are vulnerable, particularly if you are a woman who is more likely to deal with the impact of social welfare law, accessing the legal aid system has been greatly reduced.
Justice secretary Chris Grayling should hang his head in shame at the coalition’s decision to pick on the most vulnerable in society for misguided cuts to legal aid. Denial of justice strikes at the very heart of creating a fair and equal society.
This is a national disgrace and the launch of ‘Magna Carta today?’, harking back to the roots of the English justice system, presents a practical template to reverse these deplorable cuts and bring hope to hundreds of thousands of people across the country.
The report supports using resources far more cost effectively, and meeting needs far more comprehensively than is currently the case.
It makes ambitious proposals that could all be achieved over the life of a new government with minimal costs overall, because of savings from other areas with providing legal aid to children and young people, and removing the barriers to victims of domestic violence being priority areas.
The full report can be obtained here
Or contact Maureen.firstname.lastname@example.org if you want a hard copy sent to you