A review by Lord Bach launching an alternative vision of equality before the law exposes the government’s ‘austerity lie’ of the need to cut legal aid and access to justice, Britain’s largest union, Unite said today (Monday 25 September).
Welcoming the ‘Access to Justice’ commission report, Unite said the report was as an important contribution to the formation of a Labour plan for a justice system that is genuinely accessible to all.
The report lambasts the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment (LASPO) Act introduced by the coalition government for restricting eligibility and the scope of legal support as well as condemning austerity policies that have imposed a ‘disproportionate’ share of cuts on the legal system.
The report identifies that legal aid spending was £950 million less last year than in 2010, rather than the estimated £450 million the government had originally wanted to axe through the Act.
Commenting Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “Tory ministers have continually sought to restrict access to justice to those who need it most, by introducing employment tribunal fees and cuts to legal aid.
“This report is an important contribution into how we turn that tide of inequality in our justice system and create an equitable legal system where access to justice isn’t judged on the size of your wallet, but the merits of your case.
“Importantly it also exposes the government’s ‘austerity lie’ and shows that ministers have gone further than originally intended and cut legal aid by almost double the stated amount.
“It’s a move that has created extra misery and will continue to cruelly leave people in need of justice high and dry and shut out of the justice system.
“The government must scrap tribunal fees and stop using austerity as an excuse to cut legal aid and access to justice. We need a properly funded justice system accessible to all.”
Unite national officer Siobhan Endean added: “Unite represents many people working for charities, support and advisory services in the justice sector. They have seen first-hand the devastating impact that cuts to justice and legal aid have had on people trying to get justice.
“This report will help the debate and how we shape a justice system that ensures the people our members support get access to justice.”
For further information please contact Unite head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869.
Notes to editors:
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.