As the general election draws near, politicians are missing out on a key vote winner: justice.
Changes introduced by this parliament mean:
- An extra 400,000 people a year are being denied access to legal aid
- A 30% increase in people representing themselves in court
- Challenging unlawful government decisions is restricted to the wealthy, and
- Our rights and freedoms are threatened by surveillance laws.
Yet so far political parties have failed to address these issues in their visions for the future.
That is why a coalition of legal aid organisations and professional bodies has today published ‘A Manifesto for Justice’.
The manifesto - available below for download - says: “The justice system underpins the principles of liberty and democracy, the rule of law, and our human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
“Justice is precious. The price we pay for it should reflect the value we place on living in a just and ordered society.”
Alistair MacDonald QC, Chairman of the Bar, said:
“Politicians think justice, in the broader sense, yields insufficient political capital. And why shouldn’t they? Voters have for years taken access to justice for granted as an immutable part of our heritage and the established order. But for how much longer will they so do?”
Nimrod Ben Cnaan, Head of Policy and Profile, Law Centres Network said:
“Legal aid exists to help disadvantaged people assert their rights in the face of richer and more powerful people and bodies. But cuts have been so severe that even the remaining help is not functioning properly. The price is too dear: without access to legal assistance, people suffer unfairness and ultimately injustice; these blight their lives, deepen inequality and undermine the rule of law. We must ensure that justice is accessible to those who need it most.”
Frances Edwards, President of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, said:
“Increasing court fees, reduced legal advice availability, and restricted access to judicial review mean access to justice and the rule of law are potentially in jeopardy. We look forward to working constructively with whatever government is formed after May 7. Allowing the public access to justice in a timely, affordable and meaningful way is surely a principle on which all parties can agree.”
Chilli Reid, Head of Development and Policy, AdviceUK said:
“Early legal advice and intervention can prevent a problem escalating and becoming far more damaging for an individual. It also saves money for the exchequer and taxpayer. Every day AdviceUK member centres deal with people who are in very serious difficulty and timely legal advice has a big positive impact on people, whether the issue is about employment, welfare benefits, debt or housing.”
Steve Hynes, Director of the Legal Action Group said:
“There is no point in having education, health or social welfare unless people have the right to access those services. Without the opportunity to obtain early advice on common, everyday legal problems, politicians are also denying access to these essential services.”
Click here for an announcement in the Times by Bar Council chairman, Alistair MacDonald QC.
- ‘A Manifesto for Justice’ has been prepared by a broad coalition of organisations, each with a shared interest in the future of justice. They include: the Bar Council, the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, the Law Centres Network, AdviceUK and the Legal Action Group.
- The Bar Council represents barristers in England and Wales. It promotes the Bar's high quality specialist advocacy and advisory services; fair access to justice for all; the highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across the profession; and the development of business opportunities for barristers at home and abroad.
- CILEx is the professional association representing over 20,000 Chartered Legal Executives, paralegals and legal professionals. CILEx provides vocational and apprenticeship routes to qualify as a specialist lawyer, and has been providing innovative vocational legal qualifications for more than 50 years.
- The Legal Action Group is a national, independent charity, which promotes equal access to justice for all members of society who are socially, economically or otherwise disadvantaged. It seeks to improve law and practice, the administration of justice and legal services.
- AdviceUK is the UK’s largest support network for free, independent advice centres. AdviceUK was formed in 1979 as the Federation of Independent Advice Centres (FIAC).