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Legal aid cuts causing 'misery'

Published 02/05/2015

Barristers and solicitors outside Southwark Crown Court, London, during a nationwide strike against Government plans to cut legal aid
Barristers and solicitors outside Southwark Crown Court, London, during a nationwide strike against Government plans to cut legal aid

Legal aid cuts have forced people who cannot afford advice to endure "sheer human misery", a group of more than 100 law professionals have warned.

The next government must restore aid to those who need it, they said, claiming reforms have had a knock-on effect on prisons, the legal profession and created "disarray" in courts.

In a letter to the Guardian the group said: "Without access to justice for all, inequalities take on a more dangerous edge which threatens the legitimacy of not just the justice system but our democracy."

The signatories include former Lord Justice of Appeal Sir Alan Moses, who now heads the press regulatory body IPSO, Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights organisation Liberty, as well as solicitors and clinical psychologists among others.

They also called for an independent body to be set up to review legal aid rates "to ensure public need is adequately met in the provision of legal services".

The amount spent on legal aid in 2013-2014 fell to around £1.7 billion, down from £2.2 billion four years earlier, the Commons heard in March.

A report at the time warned civil legal aid cuts have limited access to justice for those who need financial support the most.

The Government has argued the cuts are necessary, claiming the system needs to be "sustainable".

In a speech last month Supreme Court president Lord Neuberger warned the importance of ensuring all parties involved in a case understand the goings-on in a court is now greater because "people are having to choose between representing themselves or not getting justice at all".

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