The impact of legal aid cuts on access to justice in the UK
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- Publisher: Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London
Lawyers would argue that this is an epochal moment for access to justice in the UK. Time will judge in due course; for now it worth simply setting a marker down to capture what has passed. The date to note is 1 April 2013: this was when the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO), an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom, came into affect. LASPO changed the landscape of civil legal aid in England and Wales not only in how and by whom legal aid was administered; LASPO profoundly altered what remained within scope for legal aid, taking private family law disputes such as divorce and child custody, immigration, housing, debt and social welfare and employment out of the provision of legal aid save for those cases where ‘domestic violence is involved, life or liberty are at stake or people risk losing their home’ (BBC 2013). The cuts were introduced with the aim to shave off £350 million from the £2 billion civil and criminal legal aid budget, primarily in civil legal aid with proposals for eventual cuts in criminal legal aid. For a nation in financially difficult times following the banking crisis of 2008 and subsequent recession, the retrenchment of the public services was bitter surgery the nation would have to endure. Why would the provision of legal aid be immune from excision?
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