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Slashing and burning legal aid

The Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, has warned the Government of the serious consequences of pursuing far reaching cuts to legal aid, as the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill reaches Report Stage in the House of Commons.


The Bar Council has continuously voiced its concerns about the Bill’s damaging provisions as it progresses through Parliament. Previously, it joined forces with organisations engaged in the administration of family justice and/or which represent women, children and victims of domestic abuse to publish a “Manifesto for Family Justice”.


In a briefing to MPs and Ministers ahead of Report Stage, the Bar Council has now further pressed its concerns on all three parts of the Bill. As well as criticising the threat to access to justice posed by legal aid cuts, the briefing also slams reforms to civil litigation funding as seeking to turn back the clock to the days when only the very wealthy could afford to litigate for harm caused by others’ wrongdoing.


Chairman of the Bar Council, Peter Lodder QC, said:


“As the Bill nears the end of its progression through the House of Commons, we are calling on MPs to pay greater attention to the Bar’s very serious concerns about its potential to remove access to justice for the most vulnerable members of society.


“Our criticisms of the Bill are focussed on its inevitable impact on individuals facing some of the most challenging circumstances of their lives: divorce, disputes over access to their children, serious injury at the hands of their employer or the loss of a loved one as a result of clinical negligence, to name but a few.


“If the Government thinks it can slash and burn legal aid without incurring wider costs to society, it is sorely mistaken. Courts will be clogged up by individuals attempting to represent themselves in complex proceedings, at great cost to the state. MPs now have another chance to debate the Bill’s provisions before it moves into the House of Lords; we urge them to hold the Government to account.”


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