Legal aid news - 28 Sept 2014

  • The judicial review challenge to the Lord Chancellor’s criminal legal aid consultation was successful, with judgment handed down by the Administrative Court on 16 September 2014. Our report of the judgment is here, with an extended version at Legal Voice here. The case generated significant media coverage, with further reports and comment on the case published by BBC News, The Guardian, The Independent and Legal Voice.
     
  • In the week following the judgment, the Ministry of Justice announced a fresh three week consultation on the two reports which were the subject of the judicial review. The consultation closes on 15 October.
     
  • The Administrative Court also granted permission to a judicial review brought by Rights of Women against regulations setting out 'gateway' criteria for legal aid applicants to prove that they are victims of domestic violence. Our report on the decision is here – we understand that the full hearing is likely to be listed in December. The background to this case was reported in The Guardian, with Emma Scott, the director of Rights of Women, describing the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) as a “fundamental attack on the rule of law”. The case was also reported by BBC News.
     
  • The Guardian published a number of stories about legal aid this week, including an excellent special report on the impact of legal aid cuts (featuring YLAL committee member Carita Thomas), an article about four landmark legal aid cases that might not be taken today and a comment piece by Bill Waddington, chair of the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association. The Guardian website also featured an open thread on whether the government’s reforms to legal aid are just.
     
  • At the Labour party conference, Shadow Justice Minister Andy Slaughter told a fringe meeting that Labour will not reverse legal aid cuts if it comes to power following the general election next year. Mr Slaughter did say that Labour will conduct a review of what coalition changes can be repealed if it wins the election. YLAL committee member Natalie Wilkins (together with other YLAL members) reported on the ‘Justice for All’ fringe event for The Justice Gap.
     
  • The Children’s Commissioner, Maggie Atkinson, published detailed research on the impact of legal aid cuts on children. The research found that the number of family cases with unrepresented parties has increased significantly since LASPO came into force. This story was also reported by The Guardian and by Caislin Boyle for The Justice Gap.
     
  • Following the publication of the report by the Children’s Commissioner, Justice Minister Simon Hughes called for a review by his department into children’s access to legal aid. The Law Society Gazette and The Guardian reported Mr Hughes comments that the “difficult decisions to protect legal aid for the long-term” should not be “at the expense of the rights of children”.
     
  • The Daily Mail reported further judicial criticism of the Legal Aid Agency, this time relating to applications for funding to instruct expert witnesses. Our August news round-up featured a number of stories about comments by judges concerning legal aid.
     
  • Family Law reported a 27% drop in family legal aid work compared to the same quarter last year, as well as a fall in both the number of cases and a 50% fall in the use of mediation in an article stating that low income families are the major victims of legal aid cuts to family law services.
     
  • The Legal Aid Practitioners Group annual conference will be held on 10 October 2014 – further details and ticket information are on the YLAL website here.
     
  • The next meeting of the All Party Group on Legal Aid has been arranged for 16 October 2014 at 8:30am. The meeting will consider the topic of access to justice for children and young people and will feature speakers from the Office of the Children's Commissioner, JustRights, Just for Kids Law, The Howard League for Penal Reform, Coram Children's Legal Centre, Children's Rights Alliance England and Youth Access. Further details are on the YLAL website here.