1 APRIL 2015 marks the 2nd anniversary of the coming into force of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO), which drastically cut legal aid and demolished access to justice for 600,000 of the poorest and most vulnerable in society.
In this, the 800 year anniversary of Magna Carta, the impact of LASPO can be seen daily. It is a bullies’ charter, which empowers the exploitative Rachman landlord, the draconian employer, the violent partner, all of whom remain safe in the knowledge that their actions cannot be challenged in the courts. Thanks to LASPO, it is no longer possible for ordinary people to stand up to the powerful. Equality before the law is now a myth.
April 1st, is also Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling’s birthday. Mr Grayling holds the title Minister of Justice, yet his relentless attack on legal aid has deprived justice from those who need it most – victims of domestic violence, asylum seekers, young offenders. Grayling is also intent on eliminating quality defence lawyers from our criminal justice system, forcing through devastating proposals during the election campaign. Be very frightened if your son or daughter is ever arrested; be warned if you are innocent – legal miscarriages will inevitably flow from these changes.
Legal aid in England and Wales was established in 1949 but this fourth pillar of the welfare state is under threat like never before. Sadly, this is not an April Fool.