LAPG have issued a statement following publication of the Government's response to the Legal Aid Means Test Review. Nicola Mackintosh KC (Hon), Co-Chair of LAPG is quoted and states:
‘Everyone should be entitled to access justice, regardless of their ability to pay for legal advice and representation. The means test for legal aid is totally outdated and has needed urgent reform. Many of the proposals to change the system are to be welcomed, so that more of the population are eligible for help with legal costs and therefore have access to justice. It is however a missed opportunity to rectify some of the worst injustices in the legal aid scheme such as the need for vulnerable disabled people detained in the community to have a right to non-means tested representation.
But although there are some welcome changes, there is an elephant in the room, and it is a very large elephant which is not addressed by this report.
Civil and criminal legal aid is in crisis, with stagnant rates of pay for decades. Legal aid practitioners are being forced to leave because it is impossible to continue to practice. Firms are reducing legal aid work, because it is unsustainable and the endless bureaucracy is exhausting. Without legal aid practitioners, there will be no increased access to justice because there will be no-one to deliver the services the public need. Extending eligibility ignores the urgent and pressing need for the justice system to have an immediate injection of funds to increase rates to keep existing practitioners. Otherwise the thousands, or millions of people who may benefit from the means test changes will find themselves in exactly the same position because on the ground there will be no-one to provide them with a legal aid service’.
You can read the full LAPG response here: https://lapg.co.uk/lapg-statement-on-the-governments-published-response-to-the-legal-aid-means-test-review/