Joe’s story: the impact of legal aid cuts on minority communities
Criminal legal aid firms are facing bleak prospects, with solicitors from ethnic minority communities particularly affected by funding cuts. Law Society Council member Joe Mensah-Dankwah shares his story.
Legal aid contracts offered employment opportunities and a chance for people like Joe to set up their own high-street businesses.
“For members of certain minority communities, legal aid was a haven,” he recalls.
But the situation has changed dramatically. The work is no longer profitable due to a lack of funding and firms are finding themselves saddled with debt.
Criminal defence solicitors are now leaving the sector in droves.
The numbers are stark: over the last 15 years, the number of criminal legal aid firms has nearly halved.
As more practitioners leave, the pressure on those who are left becomes worse, leading to a vicious spiral of departures.
The impacts are being felt across the country, with people not being able to access legal advice when they’re in trouble with the police.
“Many people in the ethnic minority communities are facing a very bleak prospect. We’re coming to a position where there won’t be that check on the state’s power to arrest, detain and put a person through trial who may be innocent.”