Monday, 14 February 2011

And Justice For All?

The consultation ends today on plans by the UK Government to slash £350 million a year from the legal aid bill. This has been sold by Tory Justice Minister Ken Clarke as a common sense way of reducing the UK’s budget deficit as it will only hurt those with an interest in perpetuating the legal aid ‘gravy train.’ Closer scrutiny shows it will result in a legal system whereby only those with means will be able to pursue justice through the civil courts.

Advice groups, who have no political axe to grind and are solely concerned with giving advice to their clients, have warned the changes will be “devastating.”

Legal aid will still be available if the cut-backs are pushed through but there will be a dramatic reduction in the number of instances when it will become accessible. Got a problem with housing? Tough luck….unless you’re literally being thrown out of your front door that is.

It is estimated that more than half of the proposed cuts are expected in family cases like child access, non-violent domestic disputes, divorce cases and welfare. The cuts will clearly hit those who need help the most.

As Plaid Cymru MP Elfyn Llwyd said, it is “bitingly ironic” that the consultation paper on these reforms actually says that “access to justice is a hallmark of any civilised society.” What deceit.

The savings are peanuts when compared to what could be recouped by making a few UK billionaires pay their taxes instead of evading or avoiding their obligations to the Treasury through the cleverest accounting that money can buy. Tax evasion and avoidance is a big problem and swift action to tackle it would make inroads into reducing the budget deficit but so far, the Tories have remained strangely (or perhaps not given their motley crew of donors) silent on the matter.

Are you concerned? Why not make you views heard before the consultation on this regressive policy closes at midnight today.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is extremely hard even now for people in need to receive legal aid; cuts of this scale will effectively cut off access to justice unless one has the wealth to pay for it. Ken Clarke's comment on "the legal gravy train" is an insult to the people who find themselves facing legal action through no fault of their own: does he seriously think that people choose to spend months tied up in a legal process simply for the fun of it?