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The Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) and Young Legal Aid Lawyers (YLAL) have branded the proposed cuts to legal aid as ‘unjustifiable’, believing that they would deprive the profession of talented lawyers, according to their full written responses to the consultation.
The JLD stated in its documented response that the cuts would undermine access to justice, leave many people unable to protect their rights and seek legal remedy and undermine the quality of advice and representation.
The new JLD chair Judith Perkins said: “We’re fortunate that our members care about these issues enough to have responded to us with their views on the proposed cuts to legal aid, and that the JLD Executive has a number of committee members who work in this sector,”
“The focus of our response was the impact on those members who currently work in, or have hopes of working in, the legal aid sector. We also stressed the importance of the legal aid sector being able to attract and support high quality talent.”
On a similar token the YLAL paper said: “Bright students from poorer backgrounds will be forced to turn elsewhere, depriving the legal aid sector and its clients of the most talented lawyers, and the profession of its future.”
The YLAL also claimed the cuts to fees will lead to an increase in the ‘paralegalisation’ of the profession, which could result in a reduction in quality, due to paralegals being given an unrealistic workload where mistakes may be made.
Meanwhile, in line with the Law Society, it argued that the cuts to legal aid are no more than a political choice and not a financial necessity, believing that the proposed cuts will ‘create a false economy’, in that they will lead to increase spending in other Government areas.
In the text the YLAL wrote: “These proposals will destroy one of the best legal aid systems in the world with potentially devastating consequences for vulnerable people and our society as a whole.”
The document continued in this tone, highlighting the lack of empirical evidence to support the claims in the Government’s Green Paper, which includes the deduction that a jump in litigation has been caused by the wider provision of legal aid.
It adds that its main concern is the proposed telephone gateway system, which it strongly opposes, believing it to be ‘far too restrictive and potentially discriminatory’.
The system proposed would be a single telephone helpline that would act as a gateway to the provision of civil legal aid advice and assistance. Despite YLAL conceding that there is a place for such a network, it believed it should be an optional service rather than the only one available.
Both the papers concluded that the cuts are unjustifiable in light of both the economic cost and human cost, stating that these undermine the Government’s aim of cutting the deficit, with the consequences falling on the poorest members of society.
For more in careers in legal aid check out our feature ’Legal Spayed.’