The President of the UK Supreme Court, Lord Justice Neuberger, has attacked the Government’s programme of legal-aid cuts, describing the situation they could create as a ‘rank denial of justice’, reports the BBC.
The Government has already cut around £350m from the annual £2bn legal-aid budget, with the first tranche of cuts taking effect earlier this year.
Almost as soon as those cuts were implemented, the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling began consultations on a second set of proposed cuts, designed to trim a further £220m from the criminal legal-aid budget.
The cuts have proved roundly controversial, with many criticising the Government for restricting access to lawyers and the courts from those who can least afford them.
The BBC reports that the UK’s most senior judge has said that the programme of cuts could lead to a reduction of access and more inefficiency in the court system, making each case cost the taxpayer more, not less.
A major inefficiency already coming to bear is in family law, where legal aid was removed from almost all divorce cases in April this year. Now individuals with little money are representing themselves at family law hearings, with a rise in do-it-yourself litigation being blamed for courtroom inefficiency.
Neuberger warned that the cuts that the Government is implementing will affect those who need legal aid the most.
“Cutting the cost of legal aid deprives the very people who most need the protection of the courts of the ability to get legal advice and representation,” he told an audience at the annual Tom Sargant Memorial Lecture.
“If a person with a potential claim cannot get legal aid… [then] the claim is dropped – that is a rank denial of justice and a blot on the rule of law,” he added.
The Government maintains that the cuts will make the legal-aid system sustainable and will still leave it one of the most generous in the world.
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