Richard Atkins QC, Chair of the Bar Council, said: “The Bar Council is disappointed with the Government’s post-implementation review of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (“LASPO”), published today. When the Bar Councilgave evidence to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) last year on the impact of the LASPO cuts to legal aid we identified five priorities to help reverse the decline in legal aid provision over almost six years. (See notes to editors). Few have been addressed.
“Whilst we welcome the MoJ commitment to early intervention to reduce the distress and cost to all of court proceedings and the willingness to include the Bar Council and others in the proposed continuing review we consider that this is a wasted opportunity. The 500-page report offers little of substance to ease the impact of LASPO on vulnerable individuals seeking justice.
“Although up to £5m investment has been promised to improve technology for accessing legal advice and £3m over two years to help litigants in person navigate the court system, such monies are but a drop in the ocean given the impact LASPO has had on restricting individuals’ access to justice. We fully understand that the MoJ is constrained by budgetary limits, but this review provides clear evidence that the Treasury must find a way to properly fund the justice system and reverse a decade of cuts.
“We will continue to press the government and the Treasury to provide the funds our justice system so desperately needs and we will continue to work with the MoJ to make the case.”
Notes to editors:
The Bar Council’s evidence to the Ministry of the Justice’s review of LASPO identified five priorities:
- A reversal of the “innocence tax” in criminal Courts where those acquitted of criminal offences are unable to recover the reasonably incurred costs of funding their own defence;
- The reintroduction of legal aid in family proceedings for respondents facing allegations of domestic abuse and in private law children proceedings;
- The re-introduction of a legal help scheme in welfare benefit cases;
- A relaxation of the exceptional case funding criteria for Coroners inquests where the death has occurred in the care of the state and the state is providing representation for one or more interested person; and
- Introduction of a simplified and more generous means testing calculation for legal aid