Cuts to Legal Aid undermine 'fair' justice system


Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader and justice spokesperson Elfyn Llwyd MP will today warn that the Ministry of Justice’s reforms to the legal aid budget risks undermining the very notion of a ‘fair’ criminal justice system.

Mr Llwyd will warn that due to these cuts, ancillary cases, such as child custody and maintenance, will not be dealt with properly, and that vulnerable clients, such as those with mental health problems, will now struggle to access free legal advice.

He will also slam the UK Government for failing to recognise that, by singling out domestic violence cases, other forms of abuse will not be not treated with the same gravity.

The UK Government is proposing a cut of roughly £450million per year to the Legal Aid budget.

Mr Llwyd will be speaking in the Second Reading of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill in the House of Commons.

Mr Llwyd said:

“It is telling that over 90% of respondents to the consultation disagreed with the proposals to remove cases from the scope of legal aid.

“We risk creating a market for legal aid driven by cost rather than by the needs of clients.

“The most vulnerable clients, including those with mental health problems and other disabilities, will find it impossible to gain access to free legal advice – because their cases will be too complex for firms to take on.

“Ancillary matters such as child custody and maintenance will not be dealt with sensibly, and it is difficult to overestimate the devastating effect this will wreak on children caught up in ‘untidy’ disputes.

“The UK government has conceded that legal aid should be available for victims of domestic violence - but there are concerns over concentrating too much on domestic violence alone. Abuse is much broader and can be psychological, often financial and emotional. A one size fits all solutions simply do not work with the complexities of our justice system.

“The UK Government needs to recognise that our justice system does not only have a duty to protect its civilians – it should support them as well. We must protect them from undue grievance, financial problems and trauma, which can all result from unnecessarily complicated court cases.

“Everyone should also be able to retain confidence in their legal system and be certain that they will not be disadvantaged because of the amount of money they are able to contribute towards legal costs.

“The cuts not only undermine the reforms the government is promoting – if implemented, they would undermine the very principles on which the justice system rests.”