Last updated:2023-09-18
Select Committee Civil Legal Aid Enquiry
A few hours ago the Justice Select Committee announced an enquiry into the impact of the changes to civil legal aid brought in by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO). LAG believes this is a welcome and very timely development, as the committee’s enquiry will co-inside with the first anniversary of the major scope changes to civil legal aid which at a stroke denied 650,000 people help with everyday legal problems.
The Committee’s deadline for submissions is 30th April 2014. It asks individuals and organisations responding to the enquiry to look at nine questions-
1. What have been the overall effects of the LASPO changes on access to justice? Are there any particular areas of law or categories of potential litigants which have seen particularly pronounced effects?
2. What are the identifiable trends in overall numbers of legally-aided civil law cases being brought since April 2013 in comparison with previous periods, and what are the reasons for those trends?
3. Have the LASPO changes led to the predicted reductions in the legal aid budget? Has any evidence come to light of cost-shifting or cost escalation as a result of the changes?
4. What effects have the LASPO changes had on (a) legal practitioners and (b) not-for-profit providers of legal advice and assistance?
5. What effects have the LASPO changes had on the number of cases involving litigants-in-person, and therefore on the operation of the courts? What steps have been taken by the judiciary, the legal profession, courts administration and others to mitigate any adverse effects and how effective have those steps been?
6. What effects have the LASPO changes had on the take-up of mediation services and other alternative dispute resolution services, and what are the reasons for those effects?
7. What is your view on the quality and usefulness of the available information and advice from all sources to potential litigants on civil legal aid? Do you have any comments on the operation of the mandatory telephone gateway service for people accessing advice on certain matters?
8. To what extent are victims of domestic violence able to satisfy the eligibility and evidential requirements for a successful legal aid application?
9. Is the exceptional cases funding operating effectively?
In addition to the above questions, the Committee is urging submissions to, “address any aspect of the impact of the changes which are of concern or interest.”
In March 2011, the Justice Committee published a report on the then proposed reforms of civil legal aid, which were eventually contained in the LASPO Act. While stopping short of outright opposition, nevertheless, the Committee was highly critical of the proposals. On the day the report was launched the Conservative MP and member of the Committee, Robert Buckland said that “the evidence base for the reforms is too narrow for what is proposed.”
Much media and political attention in recent weeks has concentrated on the undoubted crisis the government’s proposals on criminal legal aid will cause. LAG hopes that the enquiry will help highlight the severe problems the public are facing every day in getting access to civil justice, particularly vulnerable groups such as victims of domestic violence.