The Death of Legal Aid Part II

- News,

Stephen Brookes sets out what is still in scope for legal aid funding following the Government’s attempts to deny access to justice to millions

A Schedule to the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 which came into force for these purposes on the 1st April 2013 sets out what types of case are still to be funded through legal aid and it is shocking that so much has been cut.
There was much wrong with the legal aid system most notably the 1994 pay rates still applying in 2013 and the awful overbearing petty minded bureaucracy of its box-ticking bean-counting officers but aside from those gripes, access to the courts is a hallmark of a civilised society and I am ashamed of what this Government has done to erode access to justice at the expense of large commercial vested interests.
For example, in Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence cases, Legal Aid is only available in the following restricted cases. It is no longer available for Criminal Injuries claims:

Claims involving abuse of a child or vulnerable adult taking place when that person was a child or vulnerable adult
Claims for judicial review involving a personal injury element
Claims involving injury from the abuse of power or a significant breach of Convention Rights by a public authority except where it is clinical negligence
Claims of obstetric clinical negligence for severely neurologically disabled children where the injury was caused whilst in the womb/during birth/in the 8 weeks after the birth
Claims for injury (including those made through employment law) arising through the exploitation of human-trafficking of an individual who is a victim of that trafficking or exploitation
A claim arising through a sexual offence
Assistance at an inquest into the death of a person
A claim for personal injury arising through a cross border dispute

Apart from injury related claims, Legal Aid remains available for cases or claims involving:-

1.Children Act cases/Social Services interventions
2.Special Educational Needs/Education Act cases
3.Claims for removal from a barring list
4.Cases concerning mental health and mental incapacity
5.Cases involving community care other than for personal injury
6.Housing facility claims for the disabled
7.Welfare benefit appeals
8.Hardship cases in the High Court/Vulnerable adults
9.Unlawful removal of children from the UK
10.Family law cases with domestic violence element
11.Specific matters concerning children’s welfare
12.Family mediation
13.Interventions by children in family cases
14.Forced marriages cases
15.The recognitions of foreign custody orders and foreign family maintenance orders
16.Judicial review
17.Cases of unlawful detention
18.Immigration appeals, detention for immigration purposes, various immigration cases etc
19.Loss of the home/risk of homelessness cases
20.Dangerous defects in rented accommodation
21.Anti-social behaviour cases
22.Protection from harassment (except for a personal injury claim)
23.Injunctions concerning gang-related violence
24.Restraint orders under proceeds of crime confiscations
25.Inquests
26.Injunctions to restraint pollution of the environment
27.Discrimination cases (other than for personal injury) e.g. equal pay cases
28.Cross-border disputes
29.Terrorism prevention orders

For most legal aid applications, an Applicant would also have to satisfy:-

(1)Financial eligibility based on personal income/asset levels
(2)A merits test based on an assessment of benefits against costs and prospects of winning.