The president of the Supreme Court Lord Neuberger has expressed his concern over the impact of legal aid cuts.
The cuts, first implemented by the Legal Aid, Punishment and Sentencing of Offenders Bill of April 2013, have prompted lawyers to protest, with many saying that the impact meant a crisis for access to justice (6 January 2014).
Lord Neuberger today said: “The cuts in legal aid, and the changes in the ability to charge or recover costs in certain circumstances, did make access to justice for poorer people and for people with small claims rather more difficult than it was. I think there is a problem here.
“I think that the system could undoubtedly be improved. At a time of financial crisis it is inevitable that there are cuts… but I am concerned where we are getting into a position where there is a serious risk or access to justice.”
He added: “There is no point giving people rights, whether human rights or civil rights or family rights, if they cannot enforce them through the courts.”
His comments, made on Radio 5 Live, echoed those made by deputy president of the Supreme Court Baroness Hale last year (1 November 2013). She told an assembled audience at a Young Legal Aid Lawyers event at London South Bank University that the situation would reach “a point when there are human rights issues” due to litigants in person coming up against trained legal teams at trial.
Legal aid cuts: the timeline
24 Feb 11: JLD, YLAL slam proposed cuts to legal aid
23 Jun 11: Legal aid cuts given green light
11 Mar 13: Exeter law students march for legal aid
10 Jan 14: Opinion: No Legal Aid, No Justice
17 Apr 14: Opinion: Students should not have to fill the justice gap