Cuts to legal aid under the spotlight as MPs and peers find human rights cannot be properly enforced

Squeezing the legal aid budget has left vast numbers in Britain unable to assert their rights - including the most vulnerable people, the Law Society of England and Wales said today.

In a report published today, Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights reflected the Law Society’s concerns that large parts of England and Wales are becoming “legal aid deserts”, as solicitors are forced to withdraw from providing legal aid services because they can no longer afford to do the work.

MPs and peers responsible for scrutinising legislation for its compatibility with human rights said the cuts cause “grave concerns for access to justice, the rule of law, and enforcement of human rights in the UK”.

Law Society president Christina Blacklaws said: “Legal aid is truly a lifeline for the vulnerable. We welcome the fact the committee took our evidence on board regarding the impact that changes to legal aid in 2012 have had on the ability of individuals to access justice, and the detrimental impact of the legal aid cuts on wider society.

“They reach the conclusion that for many people in England and Wales enforcement of their human rights is now in their words 'simply unaffordable'.”

The government is currently reviewing the implementation of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO), which removed a significant chunk of funding for crucial early legal advice on issues such as housing and family law.

“The legislation has had a major impact on access to justice and the ability of people to access the courts. So, we are pleased the committee will put forward their recommendations to feed into the government’s review,” added Christina Blacklaws.

Notes to editors

In June 2017, we published our own review of LASPO, 'Access denied? LASPO four years on' which assessed the changes introduced to legal aid under the Act. The report made 25 recommendations to government and highlighted concerns regarding LASPO.

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