Sincere plea from some of the country’s leading legal aid lawyers
Lawyers struggling under the weight of recent access to justice cuts have pleaded with the government to review legal aid law as soon as possible.
Published this weekend, an open letter written by solicitors and barristers specialising in the less than glamorous world of legal aid has detailed the “devastating impact” of recent public funding cuts.
The Conservative government slashed the legal aid budget just a few years ago, using a piece of legislation known as LASPO (or the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, to give it its full title).
This legislation is hated by lawyers across the country, and it’s easy to see why. The five signatories to the letter — Oliver Carter and Rachel Francis from Young Legal Aid Lawyers; Jenny Beck and Nicola Mackintosh from Legal Aid Practitioners Group; and Steve Hynes from Legal Action Group — didn’t hold back in their treatment of the legislation.
LASPO, they said:
[W]holly or partially removed areas of law such as housing, debt, welfare benefits and private family law from the scope of legal aid. This has resulted in hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people being denied meaningful access to justice.
The government — they continued — has repeatedly said it will review LASPO after three years of its coming into force, a date that has now passed.
Carter and friends are calling on Theresa May and new Lord Chancellor Liz Truss — who was only formally sworn in last week — to honour their promise and review LASPO “at the earliest opportunity”.
Ex-Justice Secretary Michael Gove delighted lawyers during his chancellorship when he undid a lot of the damage done by his predecessor Chris Grayling, who notably oversaw LASPO’s introduction.
Perhaps Truss will follow suit?