“An invaluable resource for the people of Manchester.”
–Liz Perry, local resident
We feel that it is important everyone understand why legal aid, law centres and access to justice are all essential in a democratic and fair society. This section aims to provide access to recent or significant documents and reports that discuss the state of access to justice in the UK.
The introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (‘LASPO’) has meant that huge areas of law which were previously eligible for legal aid funding (including housing, immigration, family) are now removed from the scope of funding. The practical effect of this, simply put, means many hundreds of thousands have no way of enforcing their legal rights.
A recent report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission stated that the reforms tended to focus harm on women, BME and disabled communities. Indeed, the Ministry of Justice equalities impact assessment stated that female clients were going to be disproportionately affected by LASPO. There has also been an exponential increase of ‘litigants-in-person’, which a recent House of Commons library research service found was simply because of the ‘inability to afford a lawyer’. The National Audit Office said that this had cost the MOJ £3.4 million in 2013/2014 due to cases without merit that could have been dealt with out of court.
The LASPO reforms have also meant that Law Centres in the region have closed down. In Greater Manchester, where previously 9 existed, only 2 Law Centres remain. The boroughs of Manchester and Salford have become ‘law-centre free zones’. The dearth of advice is painfully apparent. Indeed, in a survey that we conducted with services users of an established charity, we found that 90% of those that had welfare benefits issues were not in receipt of any legal help.
For a detailed history of the law centre movement in the UK, you can download an article here.
Ministry of Justice Reports
House of Commons Reports
Equality and Human Rights Commission
Young Legal Aid Lawyers