Government basis for legal aid reform ideological: Lord Chancellor tells MPs

Reviewing the Lord Chancellor’s evidence in today’s UK Human Rights Blog, our Director of Human Rights Policy, Angela Patrick considers the implications of Mr Grayling’s multiple references to ideology and belief as the basis for the Government’s proposed reforms to legal aid.

JUSTICE considers that the proposals in Transforming Legal Aid are rushed, ill-considered and unsupported by evidence.  We regret that less than a year after the implementation of the last reforms in Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (“LASPO”), the Government is proposing a series of changes which fail to consider the important constitutional function of legal aid. Taken together, these changes could have a devastating impact on our justice system. In the name of austerity, the Government would undermine the centuries-old reputation of the United Kingdom courts as the home of fair, transparent and accessible justice for all. In the words of the late Lord Bingham, “denial of legal protection to the poor litigant who cannot afford to pay is [an] enemy of the rule of law.” (The Rule of Law, Allen Lane, London, 2010, page 88).

If the Lord Chancellor is looking for an ideology on which to base the future of legal aid, as Angela suggests today, he could do no better than look to Lord Bingham and the rule of law for inspiration.

Read our Director of Human Rights Policy’s blog on the UK Human Rights Blog.

Find out more about JUSTICE’s work on Transforming Legal Aid.