Posted: 5th July 2017
Author: Emily Bower

Law Society Report on LAPSO Legal Aid Cuts

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Four years ago, the then government implemented the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO). Many people eligible for legal aid on 31st March 2013 became ineligible the very next day.

The Law Society has prepared a report indicating that legal aid cuts over the last 4 years have denied the most vulnerable people their fundamental rights to Justice.

Robert Bourns, President of The Law Society stated that: “while successive governments have repeatedly cut back the legal aid budget, the reforms set out in LAPSO made the most significant changes to legal aid since its introduction, denying legal aid to many who need it”.

He goes on say that “removing lawyers from the process is a false economy”. He explains that the cuts have put people off seeking legal advice in many matters where negotiation/mediation could have resolved the problems without the need for court, leading to many unrepresented parties.

Overall “LASPO has had a negative impact across a variety of areas, restricting access to justice and creating additional pressures on the justice system and the wider state”.

The Law Society Report concludes that:-

“1. Legal aid is no longer available for many of those who need it
2. Those eligible for legal aid find it hard to access it
3. Wide gaps in provision are not being addressed
4. LASPO has had a wider and detrimental impact on the state and society”

Page 31 of The Report sets out the Law Society’s 25 recommendations to Government which include:-

  • Improve the legal aid means test – to ensure that those who are most in need of free and subsidised legal advice are truly able to access it. This could include up-rating to reflect current levels of inflation and changes in the cost of living, and scrapping the capital means test for those on means-tested welfare benefits.
  • Implement the previous Government’s proposed change that the ability to apply for legal aid under the Domestic Violence Gateway should not be subject to any time limit from the date of the last incident of violence.
  • Reinstate legal aid for parties involved in Special Guardianship Order applications.
  • Reinstate available access to face-to-face advice for debt, special educational needs and discrimination law.
  • Reinstate Family Help Level 1 or equivalent legal aid for early advice in all family cases
  • Government funding for all Mediation and Information Assessments Meetings (MIAMS) for a year, to encourage behavioural change.
  • Monitor the use of mediation and consider what further action should be taken if take-up does not increase in line with expectations.
  • Availability of legal aid should be more effectively advertised to ensure that people know what areas of law are in-scope for legal aid.

To access the full Law Society Report please follow the link below:

‘LASPO 4 years on: Law Society review’