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Children’s justice under threat

New figures released by the Ministry of Justice show that 13% of all children under 18 who currently receive help with legal costs will lose out under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Bill, due to return to the House of Commons on Tuesday 17th April after suffering a number of defeats in the House of Lords.

The figures, released to JustRights following a Freedom of Information request, show that around 6,000 vulnerable children will lose access to legal aid each year and contradict repeated government claims that children’s rights have been protected under the Bill.

As part of a series of defeats on the LASPO Bill for the Government in the House of Lords, an amendment led by Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, and supported by several Liberal Democrat and Conservative peers, was passed which would protect legal aid for all children under the age of 18. The Ministry of Justice’s new figures include an estimate that the amendment would cost £5m-£6m per year.

According to JustRights, the Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, has signalled the Government’s intention to overturn all eleven amendments when the Bill returns to the House of Commons. He is, however, coming under increasingly intense pressure from a broad coalition of children’s charities, women’s groups, lawyers and Peers from his own party to retain protection for children.

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