Ministers announce long-awaited review of legal aid cuts

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Oct 31, 2017
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Dominic Raab said: “Maintaining access to justice continues to be at the heart of our reforms”

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A review of the impact of cuts to civil legal aid eligibility will report before next summer, ministers have announced. 

Many lawyers claim that the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, which brought in the cuts, devastated access to justice.

The Ministry of Justice said that the review would examine the changes to legal aid eligibility for family, civil and criminal cases, and the introduction of the exceptional case funding scheme.

It will assess “adjustments to fees” for various types of legal aid work, the mandatory telephone gateway that was created by the legislation, and the introduction of highly contentious evidence requirements for victims of domestic violence and child abuse.

There will be a review of amendments to the rules on financial eligibility, including the application of the capital eligibility test to all legal aid applicants, increased income contributions for those eligible to contribute, a cap on the subject matter of dispute disregard and reform of the application of the merits test.

The replacement of the Legal Services Commission with the Legal Aid Agency, which many lawyers accuse of being under the thumb of the ministry, will also be scrutinised.

Dominic Raab, the justice minister, said that he would soon be “writing to interested groups to invite them to inform this important work. Maintaining access to justice continues to be at the heart of our reforms.”

Lawyer chiefs cautiously welcomed the review. Joe Egan, president of the Law Society, the body that represents solicitors in England and Wales, blamed the cuts for having “increased pressure on wider public services, growing numbers of people representing themselves in court and escalating legal problems because of the removal of legal aid for early advice.

“This post-implementation appraisal by government is long-awaited and needs to be comprehensive.”

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