Government's legal aid changes could create a democratic deficit
Responding to Justice Secretary Chris Grayling's new proposals on legal aid, Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice said:
“The Government’s decision to tackle the economic deficit by reducing legal aid could create a democratic deficit - denying ordinary people the advice and justice they deserve.
"Citizens Advice will use the extended period of consultation to press to keep legal aid for judicial review - it is often the last protection for people when the state makes wrong decisions. Losing that will severely limit ordinary people's access to justice - making it harder for people to challenge the decisions of local authorities or Government, undermines the fundamental basis of UK law. Regardless of exceptions, we are also concerned that imposing a legal aid residence test could be a barrier to justice for vulnerable people.
“The Justice Secretary says he wants this country to maintain its position as a world leader and justice for all, so he must ensure there is no justice gap between those who can afford to pay for legal advice and those who can’t.
"It is only right that the Justice Secretary has acted on feedback by abandoning a price competitive tendering model, a proposed cap on the number of legal providers and will consult on revised judicial review proposals - we look forward to further details on this."
Since April, cuts to civil legal aid mean that victims of domestic violence, exploited employees and those wronged by Government or local authority decisions are finding it harder to get legal aid and the justice they deserve, simply because they can’t afford to pay for legal representation or the evidence required to apply for it. Despite legal aid funding cuts, Citizens Advice Bureau staff are working hard to try and make sure people don't fall through the cracks.
Notes to editors
- Citizens Advice Bureaux have been key providers of legal aid-funded advice since 1995. In 2012 the Government cut legal aid funding significantly. Legal aid is now under further attack with additional proposals for cuts and restrictions. We think this puts access to justice at risk. Find out more about our Access to Justice campagin here.
- The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
- The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
- To find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk. You can also get advice online at www.adviceguide.org.uk
- You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 08454 04 05 06 or 08454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers
- Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.1 million clients on 6.6 million problems from April 2012 to March 2013. For full 2012/2013 service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
- Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 22,000 trained volunteers, working at over 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.