JusticeWatch: Routes to justice

Routes to justice
Academics from Liverpool University interviewed over 100 people from the city facing problems social welfare law problems in a report published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). ‘Many individuals could not afford to get the help they needed, and across all three areas of law (family, employment and welfare benefits) participants reported significant difficulties in accessing formal advice from solicitors or from charities and voluntary organisations,’ wrote Dr James Organ and Dr Jennifer Sigafoos from the University of Liverpool. ‘Participants repeatedly cited cost as the barrier to using a solicitor. Some were aware that legal aid was previously available to pay for advice and representation; others perceived legal aid to be generally unavailable, even in areas where it may have been in scope to support their case.’

Interviewees reported ‘little satisfaction from trying to handle legal issues on their own’. ‘There was a sense of disempowerment; many people experienced escalating issues and worsening impacts, and some felt they had no option but to stop trying to resolve their legal problems,’ the researchers continued. In all areas of law, the interviewees reported financial, social, emotional, physical and mental health impacts. ‘There were numerous reports of relationship difficulties due to the strains of struggling to resolve legal issues,’ the report said. ‘The process of trying to pursue justice without legal aid added extra physical and mental strain, which may exacerbate existing physical and mental health issues or cause new ones.’

You can read The impact of LASPO on routes to justice via the link

War of words
Legal Futures reported on ‘a war of words’ between former chairs of the Criminal Bar Association. The spat began with a blog posted by Michael Turner QC on the Secret Barrister’s blog. It was ‘a mantra’ of the latest industrial action that, in taking a stand, ‘we wanted to save the legal aid system as a whole’. ‘That cry was dropped almost as soon as it was uttered and did certainly not feature as part of the negotiations,’ Turner wrote. ‘Whilst we were making our own ridiculous deal with the government and thinking yet again we had got one over on our sister profession, they were taking the government to court. And guess what? They won. Whilst we have given away the 10,000 page count, they retain theirs.’

Turner questioned why neither the Bar Council nor the CBA had taken judicial review proceedings. Francis FitzGibbon QC blogged that he was ‘saddened and angered by your mean-spirited and ill-informed attack’. ‘You resort to gratuitously and deliberately offensive personal comments: like a bad advocate or a third-rate politician, masking the feebleness of your argument… . On the substance, such as it is, you are perpetuating a false and dangerous ‘stab-in-the back’ narrative.’

More here.

Legal aid advice deserts
The Labour MP Karen Buck wrote about the LASPO review for www.politicshome.com ahead of the debate in Westminister. ‘The latest statistics relating to the provision of Legal Aid confirm the gravity of the situation, she began.

‘Total legal aid expenditure has fallen by £600m since 2013. The number of legal help and controlled legal representation claims submitted dropped from 188,643 to 92, 124 – in other words, they halved. Mediation starts more than halved. And the number of providers in the fields of both criminal and civil law has also plunged, by 800 in crime, and 1200 in civil…. It is no wonder that concerns about ‘advice deserts’- i.e. parts of the country where advice and representation are close to non-existent, feature strongly. And only in the last few days we have heard that Cornwall has become the latest area to be without legal aid services.’
Karen Buck MP


About Jon Robins

Jon is a journalist and has written about the law and justice for the national papers and specialist press for more than 15 years. Jon is a visiting journalism lecturer at Winchester University, a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln and patron of Hackney Community Law Centre. He has won the Bar Council’s legal reporter of the year award twice (2015 and 2005). Jon is editor and co-founder of LegalVoice

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