The UK's professional body for solicitors is launching an attack on government plans to cut legal aid.
Campaigners at The Law Society are asking members of the public to sign an online petition, launched 7 February. They are protesting against the government's legal aid green paper, which they say will leave 30 million Britons 'silenced in court'.
The green paper, detailing £350m worth of legal aid cuts, was launched by Justice
Secretary Kenneth Clarke in November 2010. It is 'under consultation' until February 14, so anyone who objects has under a week to make themselves heard.
Under the proposals, free legal representation would be taken away from:
- Divorcing couples
- Parents fighting their child's exclusion from school
- Medical professionals accused of clinical negligence
- Personal injury claimants
- Immigration cases where the person is not detained.
Legal aid for employment law will also be cut. Aid is already restricted except in cases of racial or sexual harassment in the UK.
A host of organisations, including Unite, the TES and Migrants Rights, as well as conservative MP Helen Grant, have spoken out against the cuts.
Citizens Advice Bureau chief executive, Gillian Guy, said the proposals would reduce the CAB budget by £20m, risking centre closure up and down the country.
Clarke hopes to reduce the number of "unnecessary court cases" which "would never have even reached the courtroom door, were it not for the fact that somebody else was paying."
Supporters argue that it is not right the UK's legal aid bill should be four times what it was 30 years ago. They ask whether legal aid might be better managed by private charities, which can make independent decisions over who gets legal aid.
Law society campaign launched (Law Society Gazette)
Learn more about UK legal aid (findlaw.co.uk)
More on how to afford legal representation (findlaw.co.uk)
Find a UK solicitor in your area (findlaw.co.uk)