Legal also provides free legal advice for people

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Legal Aid has supported
many people who cannot afford to hire a legal representative e.g. solicitors,
barristers by providing help financially to them. Legal Aid tends to cover
people who have civil cases to deal with e.g. debt or housing problems and it
also provides free legal advice for people who have been arrested and are being
questioned at a police station for a criminal case. This assignment will
provide a further explanation of legal aid and whether it does provide justice
for everyone and will also argue whether everyone should be eligible for legal
aid and whether the support given is sufficient for everyone to be given

Legal Aid was first
introduced by the Labour government in 1949 after the world war II. They also introduced
the National Health Service (NHS) and welfare reforms along with legal aid. However,
Legal aid did not affect the public as much as the NHS did, this is because not
many people were going to courts.1 Since
legal aid began to become more known more people started benefitting from this
support, the government’s statistics show that in years 2005-2006 they spent
£2.6bn on legal aid. This clearly shows that legal aid does have an impact in
people’s cases or hearings at court as these people could not afford to pay for
the legal advice, family mediation or representation in court and therefore the
government had to help those who were eligible for it.

This legal funding is
exceptionally important for everyone because if an individual cannot afford legal
representation, then this could end up undermining their right to a fair trial,
and this right is protected under Article 6 of the Human Rights Act.

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The Access to Justice Act
1999, was introduced ‘to amend the law of legal in Scotland, to make further
provision about legal services; to make provision about appeals, courts, judges
and court proceedings; to amend the law about magistrates and magistrates’ courts;
and to make provision about immunity from action and costs and indemnities for
certain officials exercising judicial functions.’2

The government provides different
circumstances in which an individual or family could be in, for them to be able
to get legal aid. Some of these are as follows; whether the individual or his
family are at risk of being abused or seriously harmed an example for this
could be domestic violence or forced marriage, whether an individual is at risk
of being homeless or are losing their home, whether an individual has been
accused of a crime, or has been told to face prison or detention, whether the
individual feels that they are being discriminated against, whether family mediation
is required and whether the individual is providing legal arguments or is bringing
a case under the Human Rights Act.3


There are civil cases and
criminal cases which are funded by legal aid. Civil cases are non-criminal
cases such as having a debt, family or housing issues. In civil cases, the
person would need to prove that they do not have the money to pay for the legal
costs and that the issue is serious. The person who is requesting legal aid
would need to provide the following; the details and evidence of their income,
benefits, savings and property, and those of their partner. In addition, if the
person requesting legal aid is under 19, they would need to give the
information of their parents’ or guardians’ income.4

Furthermore, if an
individual has been convicted of a criminal offence, they may be arrested and
taken to the police station for questioning, once they’re at the police station
hey would be eligible for free legal advice. If the person arrested is under
the age of 16, under 18 and in full-time education or on certain benefits then
they would automatically get legal aid for legal representation in court.5
However, if a case does go to a Magistrates’ Court or Crown Court then the
defendant would not be eligible for legal aid.

It has been reported that
since the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 came into
force, the access to civil legal aid has been reduced by more than half and
that most of the categories of the law have become ineligible for legal aid. The
amount of civil cases which were given a fund for representation or legal
advice has dropped by 62% with Social welfare and family law being most at

This act has taken away
that ‘legal aid is accessible for all civil cases other than those excluded by
the Access to Justice Act 1999’. Now it has taken many categories of law out of
extent for legal aid. However, the others may only be eligible if they reach a
certain criterion.

The categories which have
been taken out of scope are the following; Any family cases with insufficient
proof of domestic violence, forced marriage or child abduction. It is reported
that two thirds of family cases are the defendants representing themselves, Immigration
cases which do not have asylum or detention involved in them, any housing or
debt issues unless they result in an immediate risk to the home, welfare
benefit cases; except appeals to the upper tribunal or high court, nearly all
the clinical negligence cases and employment cases which do not involve human
trafficking or a contravention of the Equality Act 2010.7

Since this act came into
force it has reduced the amount of cases which can be funded by the government which
therefore reduces the amount of people with low income to be given justice. Relating
it to the essay question, this proves that Legal Aid is not providing justice
for all as many of the cases have been taken out of scope and therefore the people
in need for a fund would have to find their own way of paying for their representatives
or legal advice e.g. solicitors or barristers.

According to the
Independent newspaper, it states that there has been a 42 per cent rise in the
people who are representing themselves in family law cases after they have been
refused legal aid also a 74 per cent fall in the number of people who receive
legal aid in civil and family cases and this was from 575,000 to 145,000. These
statistics show us that legal aid is not providing justice for all due to the legal
aid cuts following LASPO.

Richard Burgon, Shadow Justice
Secretary has said “This illustrates the cruelty of this Tory Government’s
hollowing-out of legal aid which has deliberately targeted the most vulnerable in
society”.8 The
statement Richard Burgon made was very accurate as it does directly have an
impact on the vulnerable people of society as they will be unable to get a
solicitor or barrister to support them on their issues or cases. For example,
due to the Legal Aid reforms, it provides that there must be an exact criterion
met for domestic abuse victims to qualify for help, the defendant may need to
get a doctor’s letter which normally costs around £75 to provide proof of
domestic violence. Therefore, the question is would the victims be able to pay £75
for the doctor’s letter.

Rachel Horman, a lawyer
specialising in domestic abuse cases, said “she had two clients who had been
subjected to forced marriage but could not obtain divorces because of their
husbands were in Pakistan and they had no marriage certificates. As their
husbands were abroad, the women no longer qualified for legal aid and, unable
to afford lawyers or understand the legal process of applying for a divorce,
they had been left in legal limbo”.9 In
this case it is proven that they could not get justice using legal aid due to
the cuts and therefore the women were left clueless of what to do next as they
could not afford to gain the knowledge of what the process could be.

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