Speaking in a Parliamentary Question today Emma Hardy, the MP for Hull West and Hessle, called the government’s legal aid cuts a false economy.
Access to justice has been seriously undermined by the Conservative government with hundreds of thousands of people unable to enforce their rights owing to cuts to legal aid. When people lack the money or the knowledge to enforce their rights, those rights are worth nothing more than the paper they are written on.
The introduction of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (Laspo) in 2012 left many vulnerable people unable to access justice or forced to defend themselves in areas as fundamental as housing, employment, immigration and welfare benefits.
A Citizens Advice study (2010) estimated that for every £1 of legal aid expenditure on housing advice, the state potentially saves £2.34; for every £1 of legal aid expenditure on debt advice, the state potentially saves £2.98; for every £1 of legal aid expenditure on employment advice, the state potentially saves £7.13.
A lack of early legal advice can create unnecessary costs for the taxpayer due to cases going to court which could have been resolved earlier. Worsening legal problems can also create other knock-on costs for the public purse, potentially causing issues such as poor health, homelessness and debt.
Last week the Law Society called on the government to guarantee reintroducing early legal advice for housing and family cases in its review. The President of the Supreme Court, Baroness Hale, also recently called the legal aid reforms ‘A False Economy’.
Emma Said “Recently I visited my local Chamber of Commerce where a solicitor told me that cuts in legal aid have led to more people representing themselves in court, extending court proceedings and costing courts more money. In other words the government’s legal aid reforms are a false economy and just one more example of how the Government’s spending cuts are just so short sighted. Restoring early legal advice would not only help to resolve many legal problems but would also save taxpayers’ money and constituents should rest assured that I will continue to press the government on the issue.”