New Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has appointed the former Shadow Attorney General, Lord Bach, to lead an immediate review of legal aid.
The barrister, formerly head of Leicester’s King Street Chambers in Leicester, will look at consequences of the Coalition government’s measures and come up with alternative proposals for making legal aid system fit for purpose.
Corbyn said: “I have asked Willy Bach, the former Shadow Attorney General, to undertake an immediate review of the assault on legal aid by the Government over the last five years.
”This has resulted in many of our fellow citizens, often the poor and marginalised not being able to get advice or representation when they are faced with legal problems such as housing, welfare benefits, debt and employment. Many vital advice services, including Law Centres, have had to close.
“Even though it is clear that the consequences of Part One of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) are disastrous, the Government refuses to review the way in which the Act is working. Willy Bach, who is a member of the Shadow Justice Team, will also as a part of the Review look at policy choices for Labour so that Britain can once again have the prospect of a legal aid system worthy of our country and our legal tradition.”
Shadow Justice Secretary Lord Falconer added: “Willy has led the opposition to the Coalition’s reform in the House of Lords and brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the task.
“This review will allow the issues to be debated and attention to be drawn to the disproportionate impact that the lack of help and advice available is having on the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. I look forward to working closely with Willy on this.”
The announcement comes in the wake of revelations that the number of applications for help received by the Bar Pro Bono Unit has almost doubled since cuts to legal aid were brought in three years ago.