Justice at risk

Government putting justice at risk, says CILEx

04 June 2013

The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) has slammed the latest proposed changes to Legal Aid.

CILEx’s response to the Ministry of Justice’s consultation on ‘Transforming Legal Aid’, published today, highlights:

  • There is no empirical evidence provided to support the claim that the public have lost confidence in the legal aid system.
  • Client choice is widely regarded as an important driver of quality in the justice system. CILEx is alarmed that the Government is prepared to sacrifice this important principle.
  • The proposal to remove funding from borderline Judicial Review cases is wholly unacceptable and risks undermining this crucial way of ensuring that state power is exercised responsibly. There are already procedures in place to filter out weak and unmeritorious applications.
  • Innocent people may be pressured into pleading guilty.
  • Cutting legal aid to those who do not satisfy the arbitrary ‘residence test’ would force particularly vulnerable individuals to go to court on their own to argue complex cases. Self-representation would be further complicated by language barriers and a range of issues commonly experienced by asylum seekers such as experience of trauma, mental and physical health problems, and isolation and cultural unfamiliarity with legal processes, making asylum seekers particularly vulnerable.
  • The introduction of such radical changes through secondary legislation so they will not be subject to proper debate and scrutiny in Parliament is enormously concerning.

CILEx President Nick Hanning said: “This is an outrageous and disturbing attack on access to justice. The Government cannot hope to maintain our justice system’s reputation in the world if it goes ahead with these proposals, and we as citizens cannot have confidence in a Government that seeks to sacrifice fair justice for all in the name of tightening a departmental budget. It is not too late to turn back, and I encourage them to do so.”

CILEx provides a unique perspective in providing a flexible route into law. Members, who work whilst they study for their qualifications, support some of the most vulnerable people in need of legal help. Because of its flexible approach, 74% of CILEx members are women, and 36% of students are from Black, Asian or an ethnic minority background.

You can read the full response here.