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Thousands of families shut out from justice since Government cuts

Date:2 OCT 2014
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The Bar Council has warned that families across England and Wales have felt the full brunt of the Government’s civil legal aid cuts, with a drop of 15,000 per quarter, equivalent to 60,000 a year, in the number of people receiving legal aid for family cases which go to court, and 40,000 per quarter, equivalent to 160,000 a year, in the number of people receiving advice on their family law problems.

The Ministry of Justice’s own statistics for legal aid for Q2 2014 reveal that since cuts to civil legal aid came into effect in April 2013 under the Government’s Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act the number of people receiving legal representation on legal aid plummeted from 40,090 in January-March 2013 to 23,149 in April-June 2014, with the bulk of the cuts hitting family law cases.

Nicholas Lavender QC, Chairman of the Bar, said:

'The quarterly legal aid statistics are a welcome contribution to a more transparent approach to the workings of legal aid. However, they also demonstrate the full impact of the cuts to civil legal aid, which is having a profound impact on the lives of many vulnerable people across England & Wales. We warned the Ministry of Justice that the cuts would mean that thousands of families would be denied access to justice and our prediction, sadly for those affected, has come true.

The latest quarterly figures show that families facing serious issues, such as disputes concerning children, are effectively being shut out of the justice system. The human consequences of cutting a huge part of family law out of legal aid are clearly being seen.'
Earlier this month, the Bar Council report LASPO: One Year On, uncovered the impact the changes were already having on access to justice. The official legal aid statistics echo some of those findings, says the Bar Council.
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