Justice Committee announces inquiry into the future of legal aid
Marc Bloomfield
On 7 September 2020, the Justice Committee announced an inquiry into the future of legal aid. The committee, which is chaired by the Conservative MP Sir Bob Neill, is calling for written evidence to be submitted from interested organisations and individuals by 19 October 2020.
The committee said it was ‘especially keen to hear about the sustainability of the legal aid market, the impact of COVID-19 and the increasing reliance on digital technology to deliver legal advice and court services’ (‘Committee launch future of legal aid inquiry’, Justice Committee news article, 7 September 2020). It also noted that the system was ‘fundamentally changed’ by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO).
Five years ago, the committee held an inquiry into the impact of the LASPO changes on civil legal aid. The report on this inquiry concluded that while the LASPO changes had led to ‘significant savings’ in the cost of civil legal aid in England and Wales, the Ministry of Justice had ‘harmed access to justice’ and failed to achieve three out of four of its stated objectives for the legislation (Impact of changes to civil legal aid under Part 1 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. Eighth report of session 2014–15, HC 311, 12 March 2015, page 3).
‘We welcome this inquiry as an opportunity to examine how legal aid can be improved to provide better access to justice for the public,’ said Carol Storer, LAG interim director. ‘At the risk of pre-empting any findings though, an unavoidable conclusion is that the system needs more cash to achieve this.’

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