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'Country experiencing sustained attack on access to justice'

Law Society | Law Society

2 min read Partner content

The country is seeing the most sustained attack on access to justice there has been since the creation of legal aid, the shadow justice minister has said.

Andy Slaughter was speaking at a Labour Party conference fringe, ‘Access to justice: A privilege for the few?’ hosted by the Law Society and the Justice for All Coalition and chaired by PoliticsHome's Paul Waugh.

Dodging a question about whether a Labour government would reverse these cuts, Slaughter said that his party would not have made them in the first place.

This was echoed by Lord Willy Bach, former minister for legal aid, who labelled the proposed cuts as "the most scandalous thing you could possibly do in the real world".

He suggested that the House of Lords would attempt to mitigate the worst effects of "perhaps the most wrong" piece of legislation that had been put forward.

Speaking of his time in government, Bach said:

"We never cut social welfare law, not just because it was a time of recession, but because it was the right thing to do. If access to justice is unavailable, there is no such thing as the rule of law."

Steve Hynes, director of the Legal Action Group, a member of the Justice for All Coalition, warned of a 50 per cent reduction of service in some areas of law.

With radical reform to the benefits system, Hynes warned that people would need access to advice.

Vice president of the Law Society Lucy Scott-Moncrieff argued that people suffering domestic violence would not be willing to go to court, unrepresented by a lawyer, to seek a criminal conviction or injunction against their abuser.

"The proposed cuts are an attack on the rule of law," she said.

Article Comments

Its a sign of strength to look after those in need.

The removal of legal aid from the most vunerable must be reversed, if we are to move forward with a sound justice system.

We are at present moving backwards.

The treatment by the Coalition Government of 30,000 magistrates, is ill-judged.

96% of all court cases in this country are dealt with by part time magistrates, all of who give their time voluntarily.

Over the past year, thousands of civil servants have been employed at considerable expense, to take over areas of the courts system previously dealt with efficiently and for no payment whatsoever, by the magistrates.

Magistrates have now been asked to cut their expenses - already minimal - by not claiming for wear and tear on their cars, incurred by regular use to and from court sessions, educational events and the other duties they undertake voluntarily.

Mary White
27th Sep 2011 at 7:49 pm

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