Lawyers Back Lord Neuberger’s Legal Aid Concerns

Civil Justice Plans ‘Will Impact On Most Vulnerable Members Of Society’


By Rob Dixon

Top personal injury lawyers at Irwin Mitchell have welcomed the UK Supreme Court president Lord Neuberger’s concerns over changes being made to legal aid, but have warned that time is running out if access to justice is to remain available to some of the most vulnerable members of society.

Lord Neuberger has told the BBC that the removal of legal aid in a range of civil cases, which is set to be introduced in April as part of a programme of cuts, could potentially “undermine the rule of law” as people grow to believe the Government is denying them access to justice.

He also warned that the changes will mean that more people will represent themselves in court, which in turn could increase burdens on court staff and judges, as well as increase the length of hearings. Such a move could mean that any potential savings through the cuts may in fact be offset.

Irwin Mitchell has campaigned for a number of years alongside charities and lobby groups in relation to the contents of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Bill, which includes the proposed cuts.

Stuart Henderson, Managing Partner for Personal Injury at the national law firm, said Lord Neuberger’s comments were hugely welcome but warned that the timing may mean that the impact will be minimal.

He outlined: “We have been working tirelessly with charities and bodies across the legal sector to ensure the Government and ministers fully understand the implications of the measures outlined in the LASPO Bill in relation to civil justice.

“Lord Neuberger has outlined several very pertinent points as to why these legal aid cuts could have an impact on many people, with the suggestion that savings from the cuts may be offset in other aspects an important and worrying issue.

“However, we query why such a senior figure has waited so long to speak out on this hugely important issue – our concern would be that these views are simply too late, too late to make any difference to what is set to happen next month.”

Stuart added: “Our particular concerns relate to the removal of the support in a number of complex case types in the personal injury arena.

“For example, victims of serious brain and spinal injury who receive damages in relation to the ordeals they have faced – compensation which is carefully calculated and designed in some cases to provide lifetime care – may have to use such funds to pay some of their legal costs.

“These are people who have gone through an extremely difficult time and who are in need of vital support to help them get the justice they deserve. It is hugely worrying to see such people penalised in this manner.

“The rule of law is not something that is just upheld by a few significant senior court decisions. It requires a system of legal advice and assistance to ensure that citizens have proper access to justice. We would urge the Government and ministers to look once again at these measures and consider whether this is genuinely the best possible way to make the cuts that are apparently needed.”

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