Fears remain over public’s access to justice

The Bar Council is calling on the government to ensure that people’s access to justice is ‘not further restricted’.

The message, from Alistair MacDonald QC, Bar Council chairman, followed the Chancellor’s joint spending review and autumn statement.

“Investment to modernise courts and tribunals is vital to the successful reform of our criminal justice system and [the] Ministry of Justice settlement safeguards the £700m announced earlier this year,” he said.

“Proposed overall resource savings of 15 per cent and a 50 per cent cut in the department’s administrative budget are obviously a big concern.

“Whatever plans have been made to implement these cuts, we urge the Government to ensure that access to justice, particularly for the most vulnerable, is not further restricted.”

He added: “Since LASPO (Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders) was enacted, hundreds of thousands of people have been left without access to legal advice, often in serious cases involving custody of children, victims of domestic violence, and access to housing, education, health and welfare services.”

The introduction of court fees, he said, meant people were paying thousands of pounds in order to get access to the courts if they were injured at work, or were a small business chasing a late payer.

“The criminal justice system is creaking to the point where people accused of crimes do not always have a properly qualified legal representative to defend them.

“Access to justice has already been restricted beyond the reasonable endurance of ordinary citizens. The question now for the Government is how do we make sure access to justice is not restricted even further?”

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Posted in Barristers.