The Apparent Saving of Cost By A Reduction

Introduction

In the wake of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 on 1st April 2013, the wholesale change is said to have had an impact on the legal system. Prior to the event, the legal aid was seen as a platform that supported people in accessing justice with regards to the aspects of the civil law. However, the incoming of the legal aid cuts sent an overwhelming impact on areas of law that include debt, employment cases, housing matters, education, private family law, immigration and the welfare benefits. Research has it that the introduction of the legal aid cuts came along the intention of the government in addressing economic considerations, which were associated to scant evidence. With such changes in place, only few people can enjoy the free legal help with retrogressive measures pointed out in the purview of human rights. Based on the preamble, the discussion will explore reasons as to why the legal aid cuts need to be reviewed and how the cuts introduce more costs in other contexts.

The onset of the legal aid cuts never lasted long before an outcry of the discriminatory effects could be noted in England and Wales. Most of the judges shared the reason behind limited access to justice as a result of poverty. The latter has been cited as an exacerbating factor amid human rights violations that touch on the poor people as seen in the case of Tomasevic v Travaglini. It is of note that poor people have a tendency of ignoring the details of the legal rights. This is due to financial constraints that put them in a precarious state when it comes to paying for representation as well as legal advice. It is of note that living in poverty, makes the poor more susceptible to legal problems that have been excluded from the purview of the free legal aid. Areas expunged from the legal aid include immigration, the welfare benefits and debt. Perhaps, judges and activists in the United Kingdom have alluded to the fact that the legal aid cut is meant to frustrate the poor, as justice is only reserved for those who can pay for it.

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The assertion indicates the likelihood of an uproar and unrest, which can cost the economy millions of pounds if no measures are put in place to contain the problem. Lack of fair trial due to the legal aid cut not only affects the United Kingdom but also other countries like Netherlands and Australia. For instance, the applicability of the Victorian charter in the case of Wells v The Queen was deemed irrelevant as the court declined the charter issues and subsequent appeals. The incident demeaned the narrow definition of the criminal law with regards to the fair trial, which renders the legal process biased and compromised. If poor people cannot fund their side in the court of law then justice has no meaning across the legal system. With such an outcome, the legal aid funding policy needs an immediate review where key revisions have to be singled out and look for measures that can incorporate the underprivileged people in the society.

Apart from the discriminatory scale, scholars are sure that the UK government, among other governments in Europe, lacked diligence in its course of action. The Justice Committee asserted that the urgency associated to the program failed to consider well-structured and research-based analysis in facilitating the civil legal aid. The committee went head condemning the urgency and the state for introducing policies thought to have an inevitable impact on the rights protections. The sweeping cuts are said to have been implemented in an extreme haste and without a comprehensive analysis of their impact on human survival.

Statements by government which confirmed that “the legal aid reforms do not involve any fundamental right of access to the courts” showcased lack of understanding of the impact of the cuts to the normal life of the people. Subsequent Equality Impact Assessments on the domestic equality law indicated a possible disproportionate effect on various groups. The conclusion of the analysis pointed at the disproportionate impact on the disabled people, Asian, Black and women, who form part of the recipient group. The EIA forwarded to the parliamentary committees, therefore, lacked the sense of research on the socio-economic status which prompts the Non-Governmental Organizations to lobby for national audit. Perhaps, the alert came at a time when the government listened or never embraced any form of intervention but realized the impact when it was late for it to take proper actions.

The notion of a compromised legal system as well as the idea of less attention paid to research, and analysis of the impact of legal aid cuts has further raised the concern of increased costs felt elsewhere. The findings associated to the Law and Justice Foundation indicates that over 55% of the people felt a severe impact of the legal issue in their lives. Most of them decried the financial strain on their incomes and a possible increase in the economic burden in NSW. The findings reflect on the broader monetary concerns, which points at the rationale of the legal aid reforms to impact potential financial savings. In Wales and England, the Ministry of Justice had indicated that LASPO reforms were to save over £220 million on annual basis.

However, the financial analysis done by Armstrong showcased the fact that cuts on the judicial review, prison law and the resident’s test led to on-cots mounting to £30 million on annual basis. Notably, the changes would not result in any savings but additional costs that were never reflected in the pre-analysis and in the due course of implementation. It is even worse when such costs are imposed on the already overburdened taxpayer who is still faced with reduced court efficiency, as well as standards. The cost linked to representation of the accused individuals in the criminal matters seems to reduce the impact of the civil and family law with cases of self-representation demeaning the legal support as it applies to Dayanan v Turkey [2009].

The Justice Committee further noted that the value of money contributed by the ministry of justice was substantially undermined. Most of the tax payers rarely felt the impact as the committee realized the 50% of women never possessed prescribed evidence, 60% take no action for the legal aid and over 30% found it hard to access legal aid solicitors. It is therefore evident that self-representation posits costly and severe effects to the system after noting that courts were even spending more in supporting the litigants. The ministry of justice, on the other hand, never accounted for the value behind the cuts as the public services proved unaffordable for the thousands of people. Furthermore, the cutbacks led to delays in the legal support sector with professionals condemning the system for being careless in imposing the legal aid cuts. This means that the cuts never meant reduction of expenditures on the side of the courts but a shift in the costs to other parties that are either linked to the legal process or not. Such parties include schemes and foundations that support justice for children and disabled individuals. The Charity Commission noted that UK has 162624 registered charities having an annual income of £58.578 billion. Most of the charity organizations are currently codified under section 2 of the Charities Act 2011. The organizations have been funded before by the legal aid and the legal advice. The

reforms, however, are hitting the charities as a result of the 92% reduction in terms of the legal aid income. The charities have suffered an enormous financial loss as they remain susceptible to recession. The financial strain is being felt when covering the expenditure of training the volunteer workforce despite the exemptions and tax reliefs. For the advise-providing charities, the major source of funding comes from the local authorities. The deep cuts posit a tougher environment on the charities that resolve to engage donors who charities have suffered a hefty loss after the funding cuts were implemented under the LASPO. For the few charities that struggle to survive, the organizations are forced to strain other sources of may sometimes decline the funding requests. Estimates from NCVO indicate the voluntary as well as the community sector is bound to lose £911 million in terms public funding on annual basis. Some of the funding for the purposes of compensating the cut. While the legal aid cut seem to have affected most sectors in the economy, the impact is overwhelming with the society feeling the possible effect of unemployment s more organizations continue pulling out of the economy.

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Conclusion

To sum up, the legal aid cut was dubbed as a governmental measure to contain economic problems that came along extra expenses on legal processes. However, the outcome pointed out negative effects on various groups and sectors in the economy. The first group to be affected includes the poor people who may end up straining to afford the legal process. The impact was felt from the court’s action against the Victorian charter, which was rendered ineffective. Secondly, the legal aid cuts were based on clueless analysis that never focused on the possible impact. Lastly, the cuts led to “no value on money” after burdens were increasingly imposed on the taxpayers. Therefore, the cut needs a review and assessment before it is reintroduced in the system.

Bibliography
Table of cases

  • Wells v The Queen [2010] 2 VSCA 294
  • Tomasevic v Travaglini [2007] 17 VR 100
  • Dayanan v Turkey [2009] 13 ECHR 2278
  • Salduz v Turkey [2008] 12 HR 59
  • Dietrich v The Queen (1992) 177 CLR 292 Slaveski v Smith (2012) 34 VR 206
  • Statutes

  • Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012
    Charities Act 2011
  • Journals

  • Flynn, A., Hodgson, J., McCulloch, J., & Naylor, B. (2016). Legal aid and access to legal representation: Redefining the right to a fair trial. Melb. UL Rev., 40, 207. Morris, D., & Barr, W. (2013). The impact of cuts in legal aid funding on charities. Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 35(1), 79-94.
  • Towers, J., & Walby, S. (2012). Measuring the impact of cuts in public expenditure on the provision of services to prevent violence against women.
  • Deakin, S., Fraser Butlin, S., McLaughlin, C., & Polanska, A. (2015). Are litigation and collective bargaining complements or substitutes for achieving gender equality? A study of the British Equal Pay Act. Cambridge Journal of Economics, 39(2), 381-403.
  • Meegan, R., Kennett, P., Jones, G., & Croft, J. (2014). Global economic crisis, austerity and neoliberal urban governance in England. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 7(1), 137-153.
  • Books

  • O'Hara, M. (2015). Austerity bites: A journey to the sharp end of cuts in the UK. Policy Press. Flynn, A., & Hodgson, J. (Eds.). (2017). Access to justice and legal aid: comparative perspectives on unmet legal need. Bloomsbury Publishing. Leyland, P. (2016). The constitution of the United Kingdom: a contextual analysis. Bloomsbury Publishing.

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