Sign this petition to call upon the reversal of legal aid cuts
The government has been called upon to reverse the erosion of the UK citizen’s access to justice represented by further unjustified legal aid cuts. The latest of these cuts relate to the fees that are paid under the Litigators Graduated Fee Scheme (“LGFS”).
These cuts will now makes much of the more serious criminal legal aid work uneconomical. It will cause a risk to a fair trial by restricting preparation for Crown Court trials. It will reduce a client’s access to a local provider of legal aid services if not immediately then certainly over the period of the next few years.
Why is this important?
The cuts to access to justice for those facing criminal prosecutions must be reversed before the disaster that has occurred to the availability of representation for civil legal aid cases is repeated.
It is essential to halt the erosion of access to legal representation in the UK. Citizens, of course, face the full might of a state funded investigation and prosecution.
This constant erosion of legal aid eligibility and rates of pay over the last twenty years or so must strike at the heart of our democracy. It has the effect of destabilising the level playing field that justice requires. It increasingly divides the nation between those wealthy enough to buy legal services and the rest who increasingly are forced to act in person.
This socially divisive policy is a false economy that causes delay and unplanned expense.The present cuts are imposed despite a steady reduction in legal aid expenditure. The total bill to the government of legal aid has fallen by a third since 2011.
A Great Justice System? For who?
These cuts come at a time when the Government is attempting to present a positive image internationally for our legal services. The damage to our reputation in relation to access to justice may in fact be immense.
The Bach Commission recently reported into the effects of legal aid cuts. Appendix 5: of the report outlines some stark conclusions
- Cuts to the fees paid under the Litigators Graduated Fee Scheme make much of criminal legal aid work uneconomical
- The rate of remuneration for advocates in many hearings often falls below the minimum wage.
- The application of the merits and means tests for legal aid in the magistrates’ court and Crown Court prevents deserving clients receiving representation and causes delay
- The number of offices handling legal aid criminal work has reduced by 20% in recent years
- Legal advice deserts are being created and increasingly those denied Justice will beat a path to MP’s surgeries in desperation.
This petition calls upon the government to reverse the cuts and engage in discussions for meaningful reform of the criminal justice system and its funding. It may be that sufficient interest can be generated by the forthcoming review on the effect of legal aid cuts, in combination with pressure from things such as this petition, to effect real change.