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Thousands of families shut out from justice since Government cuts
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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. 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
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.'