The Bar Council
, which represents barristers in England and Wales, has today published a report
, based on interviews and a survey of legal practitioners, assessing the
impact of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) 2012
on the justice system a year after implementation in April
introduction of LASPO, fewer people have access to free legal representation
than since legal aid was introduced in 1949. Areas of law now almost entirely
excluded from legal aid include child custody, divorce, employment, education,
debt, housing, welfare law and immigration (except asylum cases).
Nicholas Lavender QC
, Chairman of the Bar Council
'Much of what
we feared about LASPO has come to pass. Individuals dealing with life-changing
legal issues are denied fair access to justice if they cannot afford it.
A rise in
self-representation is clogging the courts and creating additional costs to the
tax payer, free frontline legal advisors are creaking under the strain, pro bono
lawyers cannot cope with the demand, and the safety net the government created
for providing legal aid in "exceptional cases" is not fit for
number of Litigants in Person (LiPs), particularly in the family and civil
courts, is placing unprecedented pressures on courts and voluntary services.
Nearly 90% of respondents who work with family courts and 70% of respondents
from civil courts reported an increase in self-representation. This results in
cases not being properly presented, which can lead to extra delays, pressures
and costs on the court system, as well as litigants not making points or
speaking up when they should, so damaging their case.
is needed and the Bar Council urges the Government to collect more data on LiPs
in civil and family courts, to simplify the documents which they are required to
complete, and to work with voluntary agencies to direct LiPs to any available