Donna Riley reviews the recent comments of the Law Society on the imminent legal aid cuts.
The Law Society today backed Lord Neuberger, the president of the Supreme Court, who aired fears about the fact that from next month thousands of people will no longer have access to free legal advice after the government withdraws funding for numerous categories of civil and family law.
Lord Neuberger said his main worry was that those frustrated by an inability to seek justice would ‘take the law into their own hands’.
Responding to Lord Neuberger’s concerns, Richard Miller, head of Legal Aid at the Law Society, said:
‘We echo Lord Neuberger’s fears about people taking the law into their own hands as a result of an inability to seek justice following the government’s civil legal aid cuts. He has spelled out exactly what we’ve been saying for a very long time; there is clear evidence that the government’s civil legal aid cuts will cause significant knock-on costs within the legal aid budget, across the rest of the Ministry, and in other government departments. They could easily cost the taxpayer more than they save.
‘King’s College research findings, commissioned by the Law Society and published in January last year, showed that cutting access to justice for people on low incomes is a devastating false economy. As well as all the knock-on costs, the social consequences will be damaging to the whole of society, not just the vulnerable who will take the worst hit of all. The Law Society has previously suggested alternative savings that would make a bigger contribution to reducing the deficit by making the civil justice system more efficient, but the government chose to ignore this.
‘The biggest regret is that Lord Neuberger’s warning has generated so much attention, just weeks ahead of these cuts being implemented, whereas similar warnings, from many quarters before and during the Parliamentary process during which these cuts were introduced, went largely ignored by government.’
But ignoring sensible advice is what this Government excels at.