The Minister of State for Courts and Justice has set out government plans for a review of controversial legal aid legislation.
When it came into force in 2013, amongst other provisions the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) drastically cut the public funding available for many court cases. Most family litigants are now forced to represent themselves in court if they are unable to afford a lawyer.
Speaking to the Parliamentary Justice Select Committee earlier this week, Sir Oliver Heald QC said the committee would receive an official memorandum on the legislation before May, prior to a full ‘post-implementation’ review which is scheduled for April 2018.
The Minister, a former barrister, explained:
“[The memorandum] will look at how the Act has been affected by litigation, how it was implemented, and will consider the various reviews of legal aid that have taken place since LASPO, by bodies such as the National Audit Office and others.”
This would lead on to an assessment of “the extent to which changes to legal aid met their objectives”, he continued.
The government wants, he claimed “a robust evidence-based picture of the current legal aid landscape and how it has changed since LASPO.”
Despite suggestions by many in the legal profession that the government is no longer interested in equal access to justice, the Minister insisted that legal aid was a “fundamental pillar” of the legal system and that the cuts had been made in response to “some very difficult decisions to be made in an unprecedented financial challenge to the government”.
Image by Sebastien Wiertz via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence