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Lord Chief Justice says justice system is unaffordable to most people Watch

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    http://www.theguardian.com/law/2016/...rdable-to-most

    The tories and Lib Dems in 2012 decided to severely cut legal aid. We now have a situation where the vast majority of the country can't afford legal help. We now have a situation where if a battered partner seeks compensation they struggle to afford it. If an employer discriminates or sacks someone unfairly, the employee has to foot the bill.

    We pride ourselves on our justice system but we now have a justice system which is simply affordable to most people. Because of that huge numbers of solicitors firms are going out of business.

    This is a classic example of short term-ism by the coalition. They cut to save a few pounds but we now have a justice system that is inaccessible. There are more important things than money, shame some can't see that.

    Pretty disgraceful what the tories/lib dems have done to our legal system. Now only the very wealthy can afford legal representation. Not my words, the words of the Lord Chief Justice.

    And they get away with it, which is the most frustrating part. Justice should not be a luxury but it's being turned into one.
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    But hey who needs legal aid amirite?
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    (Original post by abruiseonthesky)
    But hey who needs legal aid amirite?
    Indeed. We are turning into a society where only very rich individuals and corporations can afford legal representation. It's simply unaffordable if not.
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    (Original post by Bornblue)
    http://www.theguardian.com/law/2016/...rdable-to-most

    The tories and Lib Dems in 2012 decided to severely cut legal aid. We now have a situation where the vast majority of the country can't afford legal help. We now have a situation where if a battered partner seeks compensation they struggle to afford it. If an employer discriminates or sacks someone unfairly, the employee has to foot the bill.

    We pride ourselves on our justice system but we now have a justice system which is simply affordable to most people. Because of that huge numbers of solicitors firms are going out of business.

    This is a classic example of short term-ism by the coalition. They cut to save a few pounds but we now have a justice system that is inaccessible. There are more important things than money, shame some can't see that.

    Pretty disgraceful what the tories/lib dems have done to our legal system. Now only the very wealthy can afford legal representation. Not my words, the words of the Lord Chief Justice.

    And they get away with it, which is the most frustrating part. Justice should not be a luxury but it's being turned into one.

    It is perfectly true but frankly it isn't the (most recent) legal aid costs that have done this.

    Firstly, despite everything we still spend staggering amounts of money on legal aid.

    The first thing that went wrong is legal aid was taken away from the Law Society in 1989. It was felt that it was wrong for private lawyers to control so much public money. However, the local lawyers who sat on legal aid committees were very clear about the merits test. Once the lawyers weren't responsible for the money, snouts went into troughs.

    The next thing that happened was that child care cases got out of control and there has been a 25 year long gravy train. Care cases used to be dealt with in the magistrates' court by three ladies in large hats. After Rochdale and Cleveland Butler-Sloss threw expensive lawyers at the problem. Everyone, including the family cat got a silk. Partners in law firms were paid to sit behind and take a note. That ran from 1990 to 2015. During that period, it would have been cheaper to give custody to the headmaster of Eton in many cases rather that decide whether inadequate woman's boyfriend has hit kid and whether kid should be returned home.

    Personal injury was withdrawn from legal aid and handed to no-win no fee despite the legal aid fund making virtually a 100% recovery on PI work.

    Then progressively legal aid was withdrawn on financial grounds and on the subjects covered and what has happened is that most of the legal problems that normal people of modest means have were either taken out of coverage or people ceased to be eligible on financial grounds.

    Let us say someone is a fairly inarticulate modest houseowner who can't pay their mortgage. There are thousands of them every year facing proceedings for re-possession. They won't get legal aid because they have no defence but almost certainly a lawyer could negotiate a way forward for them. On the other hand, a prisoner will have no problem getting legal aid for some trivial but novel alleged breach of his human rights. The prisoner will also get legal aid for a disciplinary hearing that will add a few weeks to his sentence of several years' prison. The driver facing a ban that will cost him his minimum wage job with no prospect of JSA because he will have lost his job through misconduct, won't get any assistance except a few minutes advice from the duty solicitor. Then he is on his own.

    The result is that firms doing civil and family legal aid look for clients and cases that remain in scope. You have a very narrow section of the population with basically non-mainstream legal problems who are having the opportunity to litigate with no consequences thrown at them.

    Meanwhile the CPS had lost control of major criminal trials. A staggering proportion of the criminal legal aid budget goes on a tiny number of frauds and conspiracy trials. Much of this is due to paying lawyers by the page to read irrelevant papers. Due to a few miscarriages of justice, payment for big crime now centres on reading the the unused material. So if the police interview 20 "witnesses" who saw nothing, lawyers are paid to read those statements just in case the police were suppressing some perfect defence contained in one of those statements. The CPS didn't care. They didn't have to read the stuff and the defence lawyers' fees weren't coming out of their budget.

    The courts also got lazy. Instead of county court cases being heard with little documentation, little preparation and being a bit rough round the edges, judges now want perfect paginated bundles. They want expert witnesses to tell them the answer and they want witness statements for even the smallest cases.A solicitor and a clerk will take hours to produce a perfect bundle. Witness statements have grown from being a summary of what a witness will say to being a history of the world starting with the Flood.

    So we have one of the most expensive legal aid systems in the world helping a tiny number of people with exotic non-problems at enormous cost.
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    (Original post by nulli tertius)
    It is perfectly true but frankly it isn't the (most recent) legal aid costs that have done this.

    Firstly, despite everything we still spend staggering amounts of money on legal aid.

    The first thing that went wrong is legal aid was taken away from the Law Society in 1989. It was felt that it was wrong for private lawyers to control so much public money. However, the local lawyers who sat on legal aid committees were very clear about the merits test. Once the lawyers weren't responsible for the money, snouts went into troughs.

    The next thing that happened was that child care cases got out of control and there has been a 25 year long gravy train. Care cases used to be dealt with in the magistrates' court by three ladies in large hats. After Rochdale and Cleveland Butler-Sloss threw expensive lawyers at the problem. Everyone, including the family cat got a silk. Partners in law firms were paid to sit behind and take a note. That ran from 1990 to 2015. During that period, it would have been cheaper to give custody to the headmaster of Eton in many cases rather that decide whether inadequate woman's boyfriend has hit kid and whether kid should be returned home.

    Personal injury was withdrawn from legal aid and handed to no-win no fee despite the legal aid fund making virtually a 100% recovery on PI work.

    Then progressively legal aid was withdrawn on financial grounds and on the subjects covered and what has happened is that most of the legal problems that normal people of modest means have were either taken out of coverage or people ceased to be eligible on financial grounds.

    Let us say someone is a fairly inarticulate modest houseowner who can't pay their mortgage. There are thousands of them every year facing proceedings for re-possession. They won't get legal aid because they have no defence but almost certainly a lawyer could negotiate a way forward for them. On the other hand, a prisoner will have no problem getting legal aid for some trivial but novel alleged breach of his human rights. The prisoner will also get legal aid for a disciplinary hearing that will add a few weeks to his sentence of several years' prison. The driver facing a ban that will cost him his minimum wage job with no prospect of JSA because he will have lost his job through misconduct, won't get any assistance except a few minutes advice from the duty solicitor. Then he is on his own.

    The result is that firms doing civil and family legal aid look for clients and cases that remain in scope. You have a very narrow section of the population with basically non-mainstream legal problems who are having the opportunity to litigate with no consequences thrown at them.

    Meanwhile the CPS had lost control of major criminal trials. A staggering proportion of the criminal legal aid budget goes on a tiny number of frauds and conspiracy trials. Much of this is due to paying lawyers by the page to read irrelevant papers. Due to a few miscarriages of justice, payment for big crime now centres on reading the the unused material. So if the police interview 20 "witnesses" who saw nothing, lawyers are paid to read those statements just in case the police were suppressing some perfect defence contained in one of those statements. The CPS didn't care. They didn't have to read the stuff and the defence lawyers' fees weren't coming out of their budget.

    The courts also got lazy. Instead of county court cases being heard with little documentation, little preparation and being a bit rough round the edges, judges now want perfect paginated bundles. They want expert witnesses to tell them the answer and they want witness statements for even the smallest cases.A solicitor and a clerk will take hours to produce a perfect bundle. Witness statements have grown from being a summary of what a witness will say to being a history of the world starting with the Flood.

    So we have one of the most expensive legal aid systems in the world helping a tiny number of people with exotic non-problems at enormous cost.
    Thankyou, that was very informative.

    The bottom line means that justice is now inaccessible to the majority of the population. As someone going into the profession, it's incredibly worrying. It's just short termism and classic tory policies, make everything about money, even justice.
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    (Original post by Bornblue)
    Thankyou, that was very informative.

    The bottom line means that justice is now inaccessible to the majority of the population. As someone going into the profession, it's incredibly worrying. It's just short termism and classic tory policies, make everything about money, even justice.
    Don't blame this solely on the Tories. This is blame that can be spread very wide. A lot of "right on leftie" lawyers find that it is a lot sexier running off to Strasbourg
    fighting battles about prisoners' votes than say dealing with dampness claims in council flats in Sunderland. It isn't the Tories that have bled the legal aid pot dry.
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    The justice system is expensive because it is complicated, because too much is legislated, and in too great detail. The state subsidising the justice system doesn't make it cheap, just disguises that cost, and shifts it largely from people responsible for a lot of crime to people who are not. Only solution is to reduce the number and complexity of laws.
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    (Original post by Observatory)
    The justice system is expensive because it is complicated, because too much is legislated, and in too great detail. The state subsidising the justice system doesn't make it cheap, just disguises that cost, and shifts it largely from people responsible for a lot of crime to people who are not. Only solution is to reduce the number and complexity of laws.
    If you substitute the word "procedure" I would agree with you wholeheartedly. Remember the cost of the law is not solely, indeed largely, about the cost of crime.

    Mostly it is not the complexity of substantive law that has created the cost here (there are exceptions-criminal sentencing has become ridiculously complicated with different initiatives-the question of whether rape was a sex offence or an offence of violence went to the Supreme Court because there was a different sentencing regime and it could only be one or the other and not both).

    There is very simple answer to how to reduce the cost of the law, Reduce the amount of work lawyers have to do. Previous generations, the Victorians in particular, were acutely aware of this. Yet today, governemnts try to bear down on the cost of legal processes without trying to reduce those legal processes.
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    (Original post by nulli tertius)
    Don't blame this solely on the Tories. This is blame that can be spread very wide. A lot of "right on leftie" lawyers find that it is a lot sexier running off to Strasbourg
    fighting battles about prisoners' votes than say dealing with dampness claims in council flats in Sunderland. It isn't the Tories that have bled the legal aid pot dry.
    They've massively cut funding and reduced payments for PI claims.

    By getting rid of legal aid in so many cases, people can't afford justice. Legal aid should not be subject to cuts. Justice should not be determined by economics. We can't decide to cut people's access to justice.

    I'm a 'right on leftie' lawyer, and it's incredibly worrying that the people who most need legal help cannot afford it because we have decided only the wealthy should have access to justice.

    Even right wing tory lawyers are outraged about cuts to legal aid.
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    (Original post by Bornblue)
    They've massively cut funding and reduced payments for PI claims.
    They haven't cut payments for PI. PI is complex and the issues relating to the present funding system are irrelevant to the legal aid debate. I can go on at length about PI funding but it no longer has anything to do with the legal aid system.

    The impact on legal aid of taking PI out of the legal aid system, was to remove a large volume of essentially successful mainstream litigation. That has skewed attitudes to legal aid and meant that the legal aid system appears to cost much more because you get fewer cases for the same budget.

    By getting rid of legal aid in so many cases, people can't afford justice. Legal aid should not be subject to cuts. Justice should not be determined by economics. We can't decide to cut people's access to justice.
    The financial cost of Legal Aid has continued to balloon. What has been cut is the scope of legal aid to try and restrain the growth of the budget. People's access to "justice" is of course constrained by economics, as is people's access to kidney transplants, people's access to education and people's access to a policeman. A refusal to accept that is like a refusal to accept that the earth goes round the Sun.


    I'm a 'right on leftie' lawyer, and it's incredibly worrying that the people who most need legal help cannot afford it because we have decided only the wealthy should have access to justice.
    We haven't decided that only the wealthy should have access to justice. We have also decided that a very small group of the poor should have access to justice for a very narrow of range of matters at extraordinarily high cost prioritised largely by the self-interest of lawyers and lobbyists.

    Even right wing tory lawyers are outraged about cuts to legal aid.
    Yes, but they and I (and I have spent a good chunk of my working week on this very issue) are not neutral bystanders either.
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    (Original post by nulli tertius)
    They haven't cut payments for PI. PI is complex and the issues relating to the present funding system are irrelevant to the legal aid debate. I can go on at length about PI funding but it no longer has anything to do with the legal aid system.

    The impact on legal aid of taking PI out of the legal aid system, was to remove a large volume of essentially successful mainstream litigation. That has skewed attitudes to legal aid and meant that the legal aid system appears to cost much more because you get fewer cases for the same budget.



    The financial cost of Legal Aid has continued to balloon. What has been cut is the scope of legal aid to try and restrain the growth of the budget. People's access to "justice" is of course constrained by economics, as is people's access to kidney transplants, people's access to education and people's access to a policeman. A refusal to accept that is like a refusal to accept that the earth goes round the Sun.




    We haven't decided that only the wealthy should have access to justice. We have also decided that a very small group of the poor should have access to justice for a very narrow of range of matters at extraordinarily high cost prioritised largely by the self-interest of lawyers and lobbyists.



    Yes, but they and I (and I have spent a good chunk of my working week on this very issue) are not neutral bystanders either.
    Cutting legal aid is short termism for the extreme.
    Saves a few pounds in the short term, means we have a crap legal system in the long term.

    Just like the decision to cut flood defences. For every £1 spent on flood defence, it costs you £8 to repair an area after flooding.

    But like with that, the short termism of the government is astonishing.
    We have a legal system which the vast, vast majority have no access to.

    There are some things far more important than money. Health, justice, military etc should all be ringfenced. Justice is a right, not a luxury.

    Anyone who can't afford justice and has a reasonable chance of winning should recieve legal aid, if not then we really do have a justice system which only the exceedingly wealthy can afford to access.

    You, like the tories seem to be incredibly short termist in your approach on economics.
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    (Original post by Bornblue)
    Cutting legal aid is short termism for the extreme.
    Saves a few pounds in the short term, means we have a crap legal system in the long term.

    Just like the decision to cut flood defences. For every £1 spent on flood defence, it costs you £8 to repair an area after flooding.

    But like with that, the short termism of the government is astonishing.
    We have a legal system which the vast, vast majority have no access to.
    I disagree. You could reverse this decision overnight with no significant long-term damage. But first you have to solve the problem.

    You want this narrative to be about Tory cuts. It isn't. The cost continues to rise. The number of people financially eligible and scope of legal aid continues to fall. That is the problem that needs solving.



    Anyone who can't afford justice and has a reasonable chance of winning should receive legal aid, if not then we really do have a justice system which only the exceedingly wealthy can afford to access.
    That has never been the case. Lets look at exclusions that were there from 1949.

    You would never get legal aid for defamation. No matter how badly your reputation has been trashed, legal aid was never available for libel.

    Legal aid has never been available for most tribunals. If you think the law of social security is something that can easily be negotiated by a layperson, then you have never conducted a social security appeal. Probably half of of appellants at the end of the appeal, are none the wiser as to what has happened.

    Legal aid is not available for defending divorces. You may have been accused of adultery you did not commit, but legal aid is not available to defend the case.

    Legal aid is usually not available where the opponent has legal aid. in those circumstances, the legal authorities will normally stop both certificates.

    When the small claims court was introduced in the 1960s, legal aid was not made available because losers were not ordered to pay legal costs.. The original jurisdiction of the small claims court was £50 at a time when the average weekly pay was around £19 per week. A Mini would cost around £600 new. The current non-PI small claims limit is £10,000. A Vauxhall Corsa would cost you less than £10K. How many "ordinary people" will have claims for anything for more than £10K.
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    (Original post by nulli tertius)
    Legal aid is usually not available where the opponent has legal aid. in those circumstances, the legal authorities will normally stop both certificates.
    What is the logic behind this?
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    (Original post by nulli tertius)
    I disagree. You could reverse this decision overnight with no significant long-term damage. But first you have to solve the problem.

    You want this narrative to be about Tory cuts. It isn't. The cost continues to rise. The number of people financially eligible and scope of legal aid continues to fall. That is the problem that needs solving.





    That has never been the case. Lets look at exclusions that were there from 1949.

    You would never get legal aid for defamation. No matter how badly your reputation has been trashed, legal aid was never available for libel.

    Legal aid has never been available for most tribunals. If you think the law of social security is something that can easily be negotiated by a layperson, then you have never conducted a social security appeal. Probably half of of appellants at the end of the appeal, are none the wiser as to what has happened.

    Legal aid is not available for defending divorces. You may have been accused of adultery you did not commit, but legal aid is not available to defend the case.

    Legal aid is usually not available where the opponent has legal aid. in those circumstances, the legal authorities will normally stop both certificates.

    When the small claims court was introduced in the 1960s, legal aid was not made available because losers were not ordered to pay legal costs.. The original jurisdiction of the small claims court was £50 at a time when the average weekly pay was around £19 per week. A Mini would cost around £600 new. The current non-PI small claims limit is £10,000. A Vauxhall Corsa would cost you less than £10K. How many "ordinary people" will have claims for anything for more than £10K.
    It's astonishing the lengths you will go to, to support tory cuts.
    Quite simply they have cut legal aid which prevents many people from having access to justice. The Lord Chief Justice, hardly a bastien of socialism has said as much this week.

    However you spin it, however you seek to defend the tory cuts the reality is we now have a legal system that most can not afford. We now have more people than ever representing themselves because they can't afford justice.

    Some things are more important than money, justice is one of them.
    Short termism in the extreme. Save £1 now even though it will cost us £8 at a future point.
    Same with healthcare, investing into the healthcare system means you have a stronger, healthier, more productive workforce and for every £1 you invest, you get twice as much back. Same with flood defenses, for every £1 in defence you save £7 in repair.
    And now we have a wholly inaffordable legal system. If you are a victim of domestic abuse, then you are expected to find the money yourself on top of the trauma you have already faced.

    We're quickly turning into a society with simply no compassion. Access to justice is the cornerstone of a democracy and that's not right or left wing. It's not something that should depend on money, it's constitutional. Yet unless you are super wealthy or happen to fit into the exceptionally narrow legal aid requirements you have no access to justice.

    It's a disgrace and it's not surprise to see you supporting the tory rhetoric.
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    (Original post by a noble chance)
    What is the logic behind this?
    Legal aid works a bit like a student loan. It must be paid back out of "winnings". Legal aided parties are not usually liable for costs if they lose. If you defeat a legally party you will get no costs and have to pay back the legal aid fund out of your winnings (in the unlikely event the other party has any money to meet the judgement).

    The position in family law is slightly different.
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    (Original post by Bornblue)
    It's astonishing the lengths you will go to, to support tory cuts.
    .
    I am personally a lot bloody poorer because of these changes.

    Legal aid spending went up by around 30% during the Blair/Brown government but throughout that time, indeed throughout my practising career, coverage (both in terms of the means test) and in terms of scope, fell.

    Lets look at a change Labour brought in around 2002/3. If someone's house was worth more than £100,000 the excess was treated as capital in the means test, and almost certainly they would not qualify for legal aid. However the amount of their mortgage was not disregarded.

    So lets say someone is involved in a legal dispute; it doesn't matter what dispute but they have a house worth £120,000 but they are in negative equity. Their mortgage was for £125,000. They weren't eligible for legal aid because they had too much capital. Fair?
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    (Original post by nulli tertius)
    I am personally a lot bloody poorer because of these changes.

    Legal aid spending went up by around 30% during the Blair/Brown government but throughout that time, indeed throughout my practising career, coverage (both in terms of the means test) and in terms of scope, fell.

    Lets look at a change Labour brought in around 2002/3. If someone's house was worth more than £100,000 the excess was treated as capital in the means test, and almost certainly they would not qualify for legal aid. However the amount of their mortgage was not disregarded.

    So lets say someone is involved in a legal dispute; it doesn't matter what dispute but they have a house worth £120,000 but they are in negativity equity. Their mortgage was for £125,000. They weren't eligible for legal aid because they had too much capital. Fair?
    The answer to that is not to cut.
    It's so short termist.
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    (Original post by Bornblue)
    The answer to that is not to cut.
    It's so short termist.
    What part of
    Legal aid spending went up by around 30%
    are you having difficulty with?
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    (Original post by nulli tertius)
    What part of


    are you having difficulty with?
    Under Labour. Now it's been cut.
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    (Original post by Bornblue)
    Under Labour. Now it's been cut.
    The point I am making is that money rose but access to justice fell.

    Saying "don't cut money" isn't addressing the problem.
 
 
 
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