Complete rethink needed on availability of legal aid- Bar Chair

Commenting on Lord Neuberger’s speech published yesterday, Chair of the Bar Andrew Langdon QC warned that there needs to be a complete rethink on the availability and sufficiency of legal aid to prevent excluding those who cannot afford its protection.

In a speech published yesterday, the President of the Supreme Court analysed what has gone wrong with Legal Aid over the last 20 years. He said, ‘many people [are faced] with the unedifying choice of being driven from the courts or having to represent themselves.’

Explaining that the ever increasing complexity of the law renders the need for access to legal advice all the greater, Lord Neuberger pointed out that it ‘verges on the hypocritical for governments to bestow rights on citizens while doing very little to ensure that those rights are enforceable.’ 

In the end, this is a rule of law issue, he said: ‘The two fundamental functions of any government are the defence of the realm and the maintenance of the rule of law. Historically, these were the only two functions of government and even today, while social security, health and education may attract more attention and more money, they would be of little value if the government failed to defend the realm or to maintain the rule of law.’

Andrew Langdon QC, Chair of the Bar, said: “Lord Neuberger’s words have added considerable weight to the concerns voiced by the Bar Council and an increasing number of legal professionals that the decline of legal aid since 1999 poses an increasing threat to the rule of law at home.

“There needs to be a complete rethink on the availability and sufficiency of legal aid to prevent a dislocation of the law from the very many who cannot afford its protection.”

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