CILEx on LASPO – MoJ’s placeholder review is papering over the cracks

The long-awaited review of the legislation that cut legal aid has acknowledged many of the problems it caused, but fails to adequately address them, according to The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx).

The review, published today, recognises that the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012 caused a surge in people forced to represent themselves, but rather than reinstate their lost legal support it only promises a negligible sum towards more information to enable them to keep representing themselves. Far from providing a systemic solution to the access to justice crisis, this will only compound the problem while giving the government the false satisfaction that something is being done to improve the situation.

CILEx lawyers and paralegals working with vulnerable people have consistently warned of the impact of reducing the legal aid support available, and of the resulting advice deserts that have arisen in some parts of the country where there are few, if any, providers of some legal aid services.

CILEx Policy Director Simon Garrod says, “Each of the advice deserts resulting from LASPO is an area where vulnerable people are going without access to justice and are at risk of having to argue their case without knowledge of the law or the process. Any solution to this problem involves a healthy market of specialist and generalist legal service providers. We are concerned that this report has not laid the groundwork needed to make an effective case for a meaningful reinstatement of funding to the Treasury.

“Instead it is a placeholder ahead of the Spending Review later this year, containing only vague promises of reviews and identifying the need for the gathering of further evidence. The measures it proposes only paper over the cracks without offering the systemic solution we need. Meagre sums to look at improving signposting to advice will be ineffectual unless the advice people need is actually in place – that means legal professionals, funded, to help people at some of the most difficult times in their lives. We live in hope that the Treasury will address this crisis more meaningfully than the Ministry of Justice has.”

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