Many denied justice following changes to legal aid

Recent changes to Legal Aid have been a failure in almost all areas according to a recent report from the Government's Justice Select Committee. As a result, the report concludes, getting access to justice has been more difficult for those who need it the most.

Introduced in 2012, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act introduced controversial changes to Legal Aid with a view to shaving £2bn off the Justice budget.

Ol BaileyThe committee (which includes Members of Parliament from all political sides) criticised the changes, suggesting they particularly affect the most vulnerable groups including children, people on benefits, victims of domestic abuse and the unemployed.

The committee reported the changes as failing those most in need while having no beneficial impact on value for the taxpayer. Of the four aims set out in the original changes, the following three have failed to be met:

  1. targeting legal aid at those people who need it most
  2. discouraging court action unless absolutely necessary
  3. and making the system offer more value for money to the taxpayer

Solicitors have warned of the problems being faced

Solicitors warned of the problems now being faced, as the need to save money was placed above a fundamental right that regardless of income or wealth, everyone should be entitled to access justice. These fears now appear to be justified with the findings of the committee suggesting people with a need for justice should also have the funds to pay.

Justice available to all has long been a fundamental part of the legal system, but commentators in the profession have voiced fears that instead of a case being decided on what is right, the changes mean it will now be how deep the pockets of each side are that is key. This could lead to a justice system which only works for the privileged - pricing out the rest of the population.

Another recent proposed change is in the cost of making a claim through the Courts. Currently a small fee is paid for administration costs to start any Court action. Proposals to change the fees would mean a 600% rise in this cost, making it impossible for many to access the justice system.

In the case of accident claims the No Win No Fee agreement makes it possible for everyone to have access to Justice after an injury. Through assessing the likelihood of a successful claim at the outset, personal injury solicitors can help everyone get compensation for their injuries.

If you have had an accident or suffered an illness and would like to know more about your options, contact Quittance for a no-obligation discussion.