On 9 April 2013, the Government presented new proposals on legal aid in a consultation paper entitled ‘Transforming Legal Aid’. It proposes to slash legal aid in many areas of law and comes after an already drastic round of cuts that came into force in April 2013. If these proposals are allowed to go through, many poor and vulnerable people will be left without protection and access to justice.
Some of the key proposals that will impact on our work are:
- A restriction on the ability of individuals to choose their own criminal lawyer;
- Reduction of legal aid in prison law matters;
- The introduction of a discriminatory ‘residence test’ for civil legal aid claimants;
- A reduction of legal aid for judicial review proceedings;
The legal aid proposals will have devastating and discriminatory consequences for the many abused and vulnerable black and minority women that we work with. They will be faced with a legal system that is the exact opposite of a ‘fair, open justice system’. Taken as a whole, the proposals will undermine fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in domestic and international law, such as the right to life, the right not to be subject to torture and inhuman and degrading treatment, the right to private and family life, the right not to be discriminated and the right to a fair trial. Above all, the proposals will undermine the very principles of equality before the law and the rule of law.
For many of our users, the legal aid system provides a critical safety net in circumstances where they face some of the worst forms of abuse, exploitation and discrimination in our society. We have made a submission on these proposals and will be working with other organisations to campaign against the cuts.
For further information about our submission please contact us.