'Legal aid and the public service professionals who dispense it have had a battering in recent years. Yet in hard times when you don't trust the politicians, the bank manager or the bailiff at the door, a lawyer starts looking like your last hope. This book is an impressive attempt at preserving the hope that everyone might have access to justice in this country.' Shami Chakrabarti, Liberty
'This book is an important contribution to an essential debate we need to have about how to best create a legal aid system fit for the 21st century.' Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, from the foreword
'This is a comprehensive summary of the history of free legal advice in the UK and the debate about its future. The authors track the evolution of legal aid, highlighting the roots of the features and frustrations, which have become ingrained in today's system ... LAG concludes the book by outlining their proposals and possible solutions for reform. A sensible set of reforms is put forward to improve provision and access, providing the reader with a glimmer of hope for the future.' Independent Adviser
On 30 July 1949, the Legal Aid and Advice Act was granted royal assent with the intention of ensuring that anyone who needed legal advice would be able to access it. In this timely book the authors describe the origins and history of legal aid as well as New Labour’s attempts to reform the system years on. They argue that on its 60th anniversary legal aid has fallen short of its original aims. There exists a marked difference between the numbers of cases pursued to enforce rights and the many potential cases that people never take up as they are either not aware of their rights or they decide it is not worth the trouble to take it further – this is ‘the justice gap’. Publication of The Justice Gap coincides with the 60-year anniversary of legal aid, which will have high-profile celebrations across the legal world by, for example, the Legal Services Commission, the Bar Council and the Law Society. LAG will also be running a national conference, 'Legal aid at 60 - bridging the justice gap', twinned with this publication that will be heavily promoted through the legal media.
Though UK legal aid is arguably the best funded in the world the authors illustrate that the public are not being well served by the current system which has emerged from the recent reforms. They clearly articulate the necessary, essential reforms to bridge the justice gap that has been created and also to bring into reality the intentions of the original Act. This title will be of great interest to all legal aid practitioners and commentators and an essential purchase for policy-makers and students across the legal and social policy sectors.