Save UK Justice petition breaches 100,000 signature boundary

A petition against the government’s proposed legal aid reforms will be considered for debate by the Backbench Business Committee having attracted more than 100,000 signatures today.

The petition calls for the Ministery of Justice (MOJ) to halt plans to cut legal aid by £220m per year by 2018/19 and deprive citizens of the right to choose their own solicitor, arguing that the proposals will reduce access to justice.

Having received over 100,000 signatures, the Leader of the House will write to the Backbench Business Committee inviting the committee to consider whether there should be a debate. There have already been debates over legal aid, including one earlier this week.

According to the committee’s website, a backbench MP needs to make a representation before the Backbench Business Committee for the petition to be debated in the House of Commons. If no MP comes forward, the topic cannot be debated.

The proposals, published in a green paper called Transforming Legal Aid on 9 April 2013, were under consultation until 4 June.

The reforms introduce a system of competitive best-value tendering for criminal defence work which will mean that the number of providers will fall from 1,600 to a maximum of 400 nationally.

Contracts will last three years initially and be allotted according to regional quotas to providers offering the lowest price while meeting what opponents believe to be a minimal level of quality. All legal aid litigation, including Crown Court work, will fall under the new rules (28 May 2013).

It is estimated that 650,000 people fell out of scope of legal aid when the reforms came in as part of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012 which was enacted on 1 April 2013.

The only cases to survive the cuts were clinical negligence claims where a child has suffered a neurological injury resulting in severe disability, either in the womb or up to eight weeks of age.

Help is available for those in debt is a home is at risk and in discrimination cases only if The Equality Act 2010 was contravened. Some education cases remain in scope where they relate to special needs and learning difficulties in young people.

Sign the Save UK Justice petition here.