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Legal Aid 'Deserts' Complicating Access to Justice, Says Committee

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Legal Aid 'Deserts' Complicating Access to Justice, Says Committee

"Legal aid “deserts” have emerged as lawyers withdraw from services that are no longer financially viable, leaving many people unable to obtain access to justice, a parliamentary report says.

The report by the joint committee on human rights calls for an urgent review of how people can enforce their rights, for changes to the Legal Aid Agency’s exceptional case funding scheme and for more legal support for families at inquests.

The committee’s chair, Harriet Harman, said: “For rights to be effective they have to be capable of being enforced. At the moment we are seeing the erosion of all of those enforcement mechanisms because of a lack of access to justice and lack of understanding of the fundamental importance of human rights and the rule of law. The government must act urgently to address this.”

MPs and peers on the committee criticised reforms introduced by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, which they said “made access to justice more difficult for many for whom it is simply unaffordable”.

The Ministry of Justice has been reviewing the effect of the act and has promised to report its findings before the end of the year..."

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