The Law Society has conducted a review of the legal aid changes introduced under the LASPO Act.
Is access to justice an essential public service, akin to state schooling and lifelong healthcare free at the point of delivery?
The Law Society believes it is – or at least should be – and pushes the point hard in a damning new report on the social consequences of swingeing funding and scope cuts to civil legal aid. Barriers erected by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders act (LASPO) in 2013 have denied justice to some of the most vulnerable people in society, Chancery Lane argues in Access Denied? LASPO four years on.
It would be obtuse to deny that the report is exquisitely timed. ‘Shrinking the state’ in the name of the dominant ideology of the last four decades is an establishment article of faith under intense critical scrutiny in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster.
Society president Robert Bourns said: ’There have been reports that tenants of Grenfell Tower were unable to access legal aid to challenge safety concerns because of the cuts. If that is the case then we may have a very stark example of what limiting legal aid can mean.
’Legal advice and access to justice are fundamentals for a dynamic society – one in which the powerful are held to account and the public interest promoted to protect the weak.’