Stephen Brookes reviews the Government’s attempts to deny access to justice for the less well – off.
The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act received the Royal Assent last week and we are now witnessing the death-throes of almost the entire civil legal aid system. What is left will just be a rump and access to justice, a cornerstone of a civilized society, for low -income families, will start to become a real problem.
Going is legal aid for housing problems.
Going is legal aid for divorce and children disputes unless there is domestic violence defined as physical or emotional abuse. Many expert commentators such as our Head of Family, Mrs Jane Staff, are expecting a huge surge in reports of domestic violence as clients try to bring themselves under the restrictive legal aid system.
Child abduction legal aid remains though initially that was to go too.
Legal aid is going to go for all employment cases except discrimination and it is going for all disputes concerning the right to receive welfare benefits except appeals to the Upper Tribunal and senior courts. Legal Aid will be going for all clinical negligence cases except for babies.
No win no fee cases are changing too, with the balance shifted in favour of big business and the insurance industry.
There is going to be a huge surge in do-it-yourself litigants and for those who can afford representation, such as the insurers, it will be akin to a turkey-shoot for them as they under-settle the claims of DIY litigants.
There will be long queues at most local County Courts as CAB’s cut back with the loss of local authority and legal aid funding.
District Judges will have to deal with self – represented litigants in vast quantities and the time cases take will extend enormously. Court hearing time will lengthen and the system will eventually grind to a halt.
The problem with legal aid was the meddling of the Legal Services Commission with one hair-brained and wasteful scheme after another and of course the stagnant rates of pay, rates which had remained static for over 20 years; but, that aside, the system worked well and afforded those who could not fund their own legal fees with access to a lawyer’s services.
Now a legal aid lawyer will become as rare as hen’s teeth – welcome to a legal system fit for the nineteenth century!!!!!!!!!!