Legal aid costs tax-payer less than a cup of coffee a week, reckons Bar Council

British justice costs the tax-payer less than €2 per week or ‘the price of one cup of coffee’, claimed the chairman of the Bar Council giving evidence to Labour’s legal aid commission. Chantal-Aimée Doerries took issue with the government’s oft-repeated assertion that the UK’s expenditure on legal aid per capita was ‘more generous than any other EU nation or comparable common law jurisdiction’. ‘Every justice system has different cost drivers and looking simply at legal aid in isolation we would suggest is unhelpful,’ she told the commission. Pic: Cheryl Foong, Flickr

‘Overall the cost of our system of justice is below the European average, and costs the British tax-payer less than €2 per week – that is the price of one cup of coffee.’
Chantal-Aimée Doerries

The Bar Council’s evidence has been made available on Sir Henry Brooke’s website here.

Doerries pointed out that as a result of the LASPO cuts and other reforms the legal aid budget had dropped from £2.4 billion to £1.6 billion. ‘That is a saving of £800 million,’ she said. ‘At about the same time in 2013 it was reported that the over-spend on two aircraft carriers was £800 million. The overall equipment over-spend was estimated at £6.5 billion.’

The barrister also called for a proper review of the impact of the LASPO cuts. ‘This is absolutely critical, particularly given the lack of any proper evidence-based research before the LASPO cuts were introduced,’ she said. ‘We know from our Bar pro bono statistics that the unmet demand for legal assistance following the LASPO cuts is very real.’

Mark Hatcher, special advisor to the chairman of the Bar Council, called the prospect of a Contingency Legal Aid Fund (CLAF) ‘an idea whose time has come round again’. ‘We pressed the pause button in 2012 when the LASPO Bill was going through Parliament for tactical reasons,’ he said.  ‘We didn’t want to let the Government off the hook and to look towards a CLAF as the solution to all our problems, but the time is right for all sorts of reasons.’

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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