A change is taking place in the way we understand the link between access to justice and the rule of law, according to Chair of the Bar, Andrew Langdon QC, who commented today on the Bach Commission’s report, The Right to Justice.
Andrew Langdon QC said: “Change is afoot. This report is part of a shift in how legal aid is being discussed. Lord Bach makes the important point that the rule of law and legal rights do not mean much unless citizens are able, through the legal system, to have them upheld, and that cuts to legal aid have made that impossible for many, especially the most vulnerable in society.
“The report, to which the Bar Council contributed, echoes the observations made by Lord Reed whose recent UNISON (employment tribunal fees) judgment said, “The constitutional right of access to the courts is inherent in the rule of law”.
“As we are saying to politicians and policy-makers this week and next at the party conferences, if the rule of law is not merely a slogan, governments must act to restore access to justice which has been denied to many. We therefore whole-heartedly support the commission’s call for a simpler and more generous assessment scheme for civil legal aid in order thereby to restore access to justice.
“Many of the proposals put forward reflect the concerns raised by the Bar over the years. These include shrinkage of the junior Bar, the removal of entire areas of law from the scope of legal aid and the growth of advice deserts together with the loss of expertise and the availability of legal advice in areas such as housing, immigration and debt.
“The Bach Commission’s report should be essential reading for those responsible for undertaking the Government’s long-awaited review of LASPO.”