One law for the rich, no longer any law for the poor
Legal aid is the Citizen's insurance policy in that laws that affect them are put into effect in the way intended.
National/Local Government, Prison Service, Corporations are all powerful, those who are affected by their decisions are not.
Legal aid is an essential safeguard against this inequality of arms and also serves to maintain scrutiny of National/Local Government department decisions, serves to bring Corporations to account for wrong doing against employees, to bring both Government/Corporation to account for public malfeasance, criminal negligence.
If the cuts go through and it is up to you to stop them.
You will not be able to obtain legal aid for 'False imprisonment', 'Malicious prosecution', 'Negligence', failures to carry out duties or to fulfill obligations imposed by legislation and a whole raft of other torts.
Long term prisoners will suffer the worst, the problems they have on release, obtaining, housing, benefits, work, will no longer be covered by legal aid.
Proposed legal aid cuts for England & Wales:
- This bulletin provides information about proposed cuts to legal aid and what you can do to oppose them (see end of message). Please distribute this bulletin to your faith groups/trade unions/community action groups, most importantly, make your own views known.
Government Proposals for the Reform of Legal Aid in England and Wales
Tort and other general claims
This includes: assault; negligence; nuisance; breach of a statutory duty; false imprisonment; and malicious prosecution.
Government proposes to remove all Legal Help and Representation for tort and other general claims.
Government proposes to remove all Legal Help and Representation for welfare benefits matters.
Government proposes to remove all Legal Help and Representation in this category.
Legal Help for the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority
Government proposes to remove this Legal Help from scope.
Government proposes to remove all Legal Help and Controlled Legal Representation for immigration matters, other than for persons seeking release from detention or proceedings before the SIAC. These include but are not limited to: Grant/variation of leave to remain; Entry clearance applications; European applications; Citizenship and travel documents; and Applications under concessions or policy outside of the Immigration Rules (HC395).
Asylum support cases
Government proposes to remove advice and representation for applications for asylum support.
Government proposes to remove all Legal Help and Representation on employment matters.
Government proposes to remove all Legal Help and Representation on education matters.
Government proposes to remove all advice and representation in this category other than for homelessness and housing disrepair (non-damages) cases.
Government proposes to remove all Legal Help and Representation in relation to debts such as council tax, utilities, credit card debts, fines, unsecured personal loans, overdrafts and hire purchase debts. proceedings concerning the making, discharge or annulment of a bankruptcy order; and matters concerning an Individual Voluntary Arrangement.
Claims against public authorities
Government proposes to exclude cases which do not fall into one of the three categories proposed for inclusion (abuse of position of power; significant breach of human rights; or negligent acts or omissions falling very far below the required standard of care). We do not propose to retain the existing rule that brings back into scope of civil legal aid any matter for which it is argued that Significant Wider Public Interest applies.
Consumer and general contract
Government proposes to remove all Legal Help and Representation in this category. relating to: breach of contract; professional negligence (other than medical negligence); recovery of property; fraud; consumer credit issues; personal data issues.
Family law (private): (a) ancillary relief
Government proposes to remove all advice and representation for ancillary relief cases where domestic violence is not present.
Higher courts: The Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court, and European Court of Justice
Government proposes to remove legal aid for onward appeals to these courts where the category of law would no longer be in scope.
Higher courts: Upper Tribunal appeals
Government proposes to remove all Legal Help and Representation currently within scope in this category.
Cash forfeiture proceedings
Government proposes to remove all Legal Help and Representation for cash forfeiture matters.
The Ministry of Justice is consulting on cutting the Legal Aid budget by £350 million
The consultation can be found here . . . . .
The deadline for responses is 14 February 2011.
What can You do?
- Respond to the consultation. But do not wait for 14 February, send a personal letter with your headline concerns to the Minister before the end of the year and follow up with more details later.
- Encourage others to respond, faith groups/trade unions/community action groups, to ensure a range of voices are heard
- Those giving advice are likely to be perceived as advocating out of self interest.
Just as valuable as talking to those who give legal advice to citizens who are poor, is talking to others who are, or who work with, or are concerned about, people who are poor, ensuring they understand the arguments and encouraging them to speak up.
There are many perspectives - those who provide material support who are aware of the important of advice, those who do pro bono work and understand why it cannot fill the gap, those who do private work in criminal law and can speak for the complexity of this area of the law with no allegation of self-interest.
These voices need to be heard - but are unlikely to be raised without your explanation and encouragement.
- Provide examples of real cases to all those who are advocating, or whom you urge to advocate, to protect legal aid. It is individual accounts rather than abstract arguments, that engage people.
End of Bulletin
Source for this message:
Ministry of Justice