Meetings

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LAPG's Manifesto for Legal Aid 2017

Mon, 19/08/2019 - 17:15

Government reforms to legal aid in April 2013 were a disaster for those who need to access the justice system to protect or enforce their rights.  Access to advice on family law, housing and homelessness, welfare benefits, employment, debt, judicial review, education, immigration…all decimated by the reforms. Hundreds of thousands of people have been unable to get advice each year as a direct result of the reforms.  Large areas of the country are now ‘advice deserts’ with very few or maybe even no lawyers able to provide specialist advice.

The LAPG Manifesto for Legal Aid (2nd ed. 2017) sets out a range of measures the government must take to ensure those who cannot afford to pay for advice can access still advice.

Download a copy here (October 2017 – PDF: 0.2MB) and speak to your local MP to help us reverse the cuts and restore legal aid – a fundamental right for all.

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Advocate

Mon, 19/08/2019 - 16:30

The Bar Pro Bono Unit has now been rebranded as Advocate. Please note that constituents may still be referred to Advocate even when the case is not eligible for legal aid. They may also be able to assist when the case is eligible for legal aid if: the individual can't afford the contributions, the legal aid has run out, or if there are no legal aid lawyers in the area. For further information please click here.

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Disability Law Service

Mon, 19/08/2019 - 15:45

For information on community care, disabilty discrimination and employment law follow the link below.

https://dls.org.uk/free-advice/online-advice/

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APPG Meeting on the Criminal Legal Aid Review

Wed, 12/06/2019 - 16:45

The APPG on Legal Aid was delighted to host Jelena Lentzos, Head of Criminal Legal Aid Policy and Sustainable Markets at the Ministry of Justice, who heads up the review, Richard Atkins QC, Chair of The Bar Council, Simon Davis, Vice-President of The Law Society, Greg Powell, immediate past President of the London Criminal Courts Solicitor Association and Emma Fenn, a junior criminal barrister from Garden Court Chambers. They all spoke passionately about the changes that the review needed to make to the system in order for it to be fit for purpose,

with Greg Powell citing from his history of the legal aid system and Emma Fenn highlighting the unnecessary fights faced by barristers every day, such as the time spent simply getting through security and court buildings She also highlighted the problems that legal aid barristers face at the end of a case in getting paid by the Legal Aid Agency. Minutes of the meeting can be found here. Please also see Greg Powell’s excellent history of legal aid, which can be found here (on the Secret Barrister’s blog which is also well worth a read if you are interested in these issues).

 

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Joint APPG Meeting with the APPG on Pro Bono and PLE on Public Awareness of Legal Aid

Mon, 10/06/2019 - 16:45

Speakers included Guardian journalist Owen Bowcott, Alex Scott, Head of Legal Support Policy at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), Lisa Wintersteiger, Chief Executive at Law for Life, David Greene Deputy Vice-President of The Law Society and LAG’s Interim Director Carol Storer. As legal correspondent for the Guardian, Mr Bowcott has covered legal aid stories for over eight years. He told the meeting that he believes that much of what has happened due to legal aid cuts ‘has been a hidden and silent tragedy for most of the population’, adding his concerns that he has been unable to do more to describe the human impact of the cuts to legal aid. Mr

Bowcott added that ‘readers identify more with people’s stories rather than statistics and trends. The understandable difficulties in reporting individual cases in the family courts are, he believes, part of the problem of trying to find the sorts of case studies that will catch the public’s attention. Mr Bowcott referred to the case of PC Keith Palmer, who was killed in the Westminster Bridge terrorist attacks, as an example of a human story on legal aid that received much publicity. Mr Bowcott highlighted the case in a piece around a demand from campaign groups to extend legal aid to inquests (‘Calls for emergency legal aid for relatives of those who die in custody’, Guardian, 9 October 2018), and expressed his disappointment that the government had not taken the opportunity in the review of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) to extend legal aid to this. He believes, though, that political opinion is shifting and ‘if there were votes in parliament, [he] suspects there would be a majority in favour of spending more on justice’. He was followed by Alex Scott, who argued that the publicity around the LASPO cuts has led to a public perception that legal aid is no longer available. He expressed concern that in areas of law such as community care and mental health, demand has fallen dramatically despite them still being covered by legal aid. The fall in the take-up of advice within police stations, he believes, is another area of concern and feels there is a ‘lack of awareness amongst young people about their rights in the justice system’. The drop in both legal aid firms and other advice providers over recent years was cited by a number of speakers. Ms Storer asked ‘what’s the point of raising awareness [of legal aid] if there is no one there to take the case?’ She argued that there needs to be a ‘champion for legal aid’ across government to increase awareness and availability of services. Members of the audience spoke of cases involving people on low incomes who were unable to obtain legal aid due to the stringent means test. A review of the means test is one of the action points included in the government’s strategy for legal aid, published in February this year (Legal support: the way ahead, February 2019). Chris Minnoch, CEO of LAPG, asked Mr Scott if he could give details about the government’s plans to consult on the strategy. Mr Scott was unable to do so but replied that the MoJ is aiming to work with providers to demonstrate the value of legal aid.

 

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