Access to justice is essential to our society. Indeed, the country celebrates the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta this year, which is the one of the greatest historical commitments to equal access to justice. Recent government actions are severely threatening this basic right. The Law Society, the JLD and so many other organisations are fighting hard to ensure that access to justice is maintained for all, and opposes both the recent legal aid cuts and the proposals to increase court fees. The JLD works closely with and supports the Young Legal Aid Lawyers group on these matters.
The JLD firmly opposes the government's cuts to criminal and civil legal aid and its on-going proposals in this regard. The Executive Committee of the JLD has previously responded to the government consultations on behalf of JLD members confirming our opposition to previous cuts to legal aid. The JLD also has supported, and continues to support, the Save Legal Aid campaign of the Young Legal Aid Lawyers.
The Government recently announced its intention to press ahead with plans to dramatically reduce the number of legal aid contracts allowing criminal defence firms to represent suspects in the police station, while also cutting fees by a further 8.75%. These changes are likely to lead to the closure of many criminal defence firms, while making it ever more difficult for new and aspiring lawyers, particularly those from less well-off backgrounds, to sustain a career in this sector.
The cuts will take choice away from people in police stations who need a lawyer. It has been voiced across the profession that quality of advice and access to justice will be eroded. There are further concerns that, in future, junior lawyers will avoid criminal law and therefore the ongoing quality of criminal law will reduce.
The Law Society were successful in applying for judicial review of the tender process and a hearing took place in January 2015. There was also a successful application for interim relief meaning that the tender process has been suspended until the judgment for the judicial review is received.
The JLD conitunes to support the efforts made to opposed the various legal aid cuts and will respond to all relevant consultations.
The JLD also encourages members to get involved and sign up to the Justice Alliance petition. For more information on the campaigns supported by the JLD, please see the YLAL website for their latest news.
The JLD is deeply concerned by the governments recent proposal to increase court fees by as much as 600%. Fees for issuing money claims worth more than £10,000 may be increased to "5% of the sum claimed", subject to a maximum fee of £10,000. For claims of £200,000, this amounts to an increase of £8,725.
The JLD is again concerned that these proposals will negatively impact access to justice, and is likely to disproportionately affect small and medium enterprises and litigants in person. The JLD endorses the criticism of the Lord Chief Justice, and the civil justice council, against these court fee increases.LD and so many other organisations are fighting hard to ensure that access to justice is maintained for all, and opposes both the recent legal aid cuts and the proposals to increase court fees. The JLD works closely with and supports the Young Legal Aid Lawyers group on these matters.