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83% of people have a limited knowledge of legal aid

Date:22 APR 2009

Research carried out for the Legal Services Commission (LSC) has shown that 83% of people have a limited knowledge of legal aid, what it applies to and how it can help.

The study was carried out in February 2009 by Ipsos MORI as part of their Public Affairs Omnibus survey.

Younger people (16 to 34 year olds) knew less than older people about legal aid. Over half of the 1,846 people surveyed assumed that legal aid is available for people who are arrested and/or for victims of domestic violence. However far fewer people are aware legal aid is available for people threatened with having their house repossessed (33%) or in debt (27%).

The Government's response to increase the public's awareness of legal aid was to launch exhibition on legal aid to be displayed in the House of Commons until Thursday 23 April. It will then tour England and Wales, taking in towns and cities including Birmingham, Norwich, York, Blackburn, Leeds, Bristol and Liverpool.

The exhibition provides information on legal aid through the decades and includes a timeline of important events, information on some of the cases legal aid has funded, as well as a glimpse into the future of legal aid.

The Ministry of Justice has also launched a special website to mark the 60th anniversary of legal aid, www.legalaid60.org.uk.

However, the Ministry of Justice and the Legal Services Commission has recently come under increased criticism from family barristers over its poor management of legal aid and its proposed cuts to the legal aid budget.

At a protest meeting over legal aid cuts last month, Desmond Browne QC, the Chairman of the Bar, said: "Up and down the country barristers have made it clear that they are being prevented from providing the service their clients need and which they came into the profession to give by cut after cut to the legal aid budget.

"It is extraordinary that this is being done in the year in which the Legal Services Commission says it is 'celebrating' the 60th anniversary of legal aid."