Our submission can be downloaded below:
This review forms part of a ‘post legislative scrutiny’ process that the Government promised to undertake when the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 was passed, implementing proposed changes to legal aid following the previous Government's spending review.
Our submission makes a number of detailed points about unmet needs and the problems of access to justice left by the retrenchment of public funding and reduced scope and eligibility for civil legal aid, the wider systemic issues for the justice system and beyond, and the impact for pro bono.
As well as working on the review through the APPG, on Pro Bono and Public Legal Education, LawWorks have also been working to influence the review in a number of ways:
- Co-ordinating a pre-emptive submission to the Justice Select Committee to influence the first stage of the review, bringing together 16 key stakeholders and drafting a memo with detailed appendices;
- Through active representation on the Ministry of Justice's stakeholder Consultative Groups;
- Through a wider stakeholder conference we co-organised with the Legal Aid Practitioners Group, held in June at Freshfields;
- Working with other collaborative projects and initiatives including the Litigants in Person Support Strategy, the Equality and Diversity Forum, the Low Commission and the Bach Commission;
- Taking our messages to the Party Conferences.
Key points from the submission are:
- Pro bono bono cannot (and should not be expected to) replace or replicate publicly funded legal aid provision, or pick up the slack of significant unmet needs;
- The legal aid system would benefit from simplification: in scope and eligibility rules, to procurement and administration and the ‘gateway’ process; the system is too complex and is not designed with the needs of users in mind;
- There needs to be a strategic refocussing of civil legal aid on early intervention and prevention, and better co-ordination with other public services.