Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill

Memorandum submitted by Linskill Solicitors (LA 33)

Re: Reform of Civil Legal Aid

 

We are a Legal Firm located in Liverpool City Centre. We have for many years been dealing with high profile Criminal matters and presently hold Contracts with the Legal Services Commission dealing with Criminal and Civil matters.

 

We understand that the Ministry of Justice intends to bring forward legislation shortly which would decimate access to free legal advice. We are exceptionally concerned that this proposal will have a direct impact on our human rights and we do ask that our concerns about the devastating affect that these changes will have on Liverpool/Merseyside with the Secretary of State for Justice Kenneth Clarke MP and Minister Jonathon Djanogly.

 

We have been subject to extremely difficult bidding process for many years in order for our highly qualified team of Specialists in Social Welfare Law to be accredited with a Unified Civil Contract for many years. We were also successful in being allowed a further LSC contract Social Welfare Law and formed a consortium with a Firm of Quality Solicitors and 2 not for profit organisations in Merseyside. Therefore, we strongly oppose the suggested reform to Legal Aid.

We have been advised that Liverpool is one of the biggest areas that will be hit by the Legal Aid reforms which will decimate the capacity of Legal Aid Practitioners or other community Advice Agencies to help the most vulnerable people who experience serious everyday problems with issues like welfare benefits, debt, employment, Housing Benefit, immigration, clinical negligence, and family matters. We are advised that 2 million pound would be removed from Legal Aid within the Merseyside area obviously affecting that thousands of vulnerable, poorest and disabled people who would require legal help and have no other source of help available to them. We are also advised that the changes are really a false economy because the right advice early on can save the public purse up to £10 for every £1 invested which, is ludicrous, as this would have a further substantial impact on Government spending, clearly this is wrong.

We do hope you will support our concerns to ensure that the public are treated fairly under the law, no matter who they are or where they live in order to continue to have the option of free, independent advice and representation when necessary on legal matters.

We do request that you acknowledge this letter and confirm your opinion and intentions in relation to the Legal Aid Reforms. We am aware that the Government are at a crisis level and it is quite obvious that some changes need to be made however, it would seem that the 2 biggest institutions in this county are being destroyed i.e. National Health Service and Legal Aid System. We are also aware that that Law Society has made a report for alternative savings in order for Legal Help in Social Welfare Law to continue. The Government are ignoring the Law Societies proposals. That is an outrage. The Coalition since being elected have done nothing to help the residents of the United Kingdom other than the removal of essential services for children, unemployed, elderly and disabled this is contrary to the Human Rights Act and Disability Discrimination Act.

The fact that the Government are continuing to ignore the responses to the consultation and other Submissions that this will lead to this Government being removed from Office and destroy the Country to which we live and love which is disgraceful.

July 2011

Prepared 18th July 2011