Legal whether it is “legal advice and assistance… civil

Legal
Aid is merely known as being a “system of government funding for those who
cannot afford to pay for legal advice, assistance and representation.”1
The Legal Aid Act2 was
passed in 1949 with the aspiration that everyone would have equal access to the
justice system. There are three important and different kinds of legal aid, and
it can be of help in many ways, whether it is “legal advice and assistance…
civil legal aid and…criminal legal aid.”3
For example, you can get represented if you are being “arrested, charged or
questioned by police”, if you are experiencing family issues or if you are
being discriminated against.4
Although it was created to help those who are not able to afford legal
representation, it is very hard to become eligible for it, thus not necessarily
being accessible to everyone. Taking into account the three main strands of
Legal Aid, this essay will evaluate whether Legal Aid does offer justice for
every individual in society, and whether it is effective.

 

Legal
Aid was introduced by Atlee’s Labour government in 1949, who took under consideration
the findings from the Rushcliffe Report, where it was stated that “Legal Aid
should be available in all Courts… those who cannot afford to pay anything for
legal aid should receive this free of cost.”5
Thus, one of the main reasons why Legal Aid was introduced is to provide
everyone with the same opportunity of being able to be represented in court
just the same as those who are well-off and can easily hire any solicitor they
want to fight their case in court.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now

 

By
applying for this aid, an individual can receive legal advice by a solicitor.
This is outlined by the Access to Justice Act 1999 s16.
Legal advice is usually given when you are at the police station, where “you
have the right to free independent legal advice from a duty solicitor.” This
however applies to everyone, regardless of the fact that one may not be
eligible for Legal Aid. If the individual being arrested cannot afford their
own solicitor and if they have “a contract with the Legal Aid Agency”, they can
ultimately be able to have their own solicitor and may contact them whenever.7
The solicitors can “give general advice, write letters or get a barrister’s opinion.”
This can also be called pro bono, since the lawyers are giving free advice.  Another service provided through Legal Aid is help
with civil issues such as “family, housing, discrimination”8
and so on. In addition, legal aid can also offer support when it comes to crime.
For example, “being arrested, charged or questioned by the police,”9
where, as mentioned before, those individuals can contact a solicitor and get
advice for free.

 

Legal
Aid has helped many individuals ever since it became law in 1949, with thousands
of hundred cases being tackled. For instance, the Stephen Lawrence case was
taken on a ‘legal aid basis’, and the case was a victory. This legal aid case led
to the Macpherson report, which found the police to be institutionally racist. The
Macpherson report refers to a national enquiry into the death of Stephen
Lawrence. If legal aid did not exist, this case would not have been taken into
consideration and would be left alone, with the murderers lurking around until
this present day. Therefore, it helped Stephen Lawrence’s parents get justice
for their son’s murder.

 

In
addition to that, legal aid has been used to help the victims of the Hillsborough
incident in 1988 or their families to gain compensation. Additionally, legal
aid had a vital role in the success of the Gurkhas campaign, which enabled the
Gurkhas who were part of the British army or assisted the British army to gain
British citizenship, allowing them to reside in the United Kingdom, also enabling
them to have access to social and health care.

 

 Despite the fact that the purpose of legal aid
is to make society more equal and just, it does have its defects and over the
past few years the usefulness of legal aid has slowly diminished. For instance,
the government cut their annual spending “on legal aid down from the 2009/2010
peak of £2.2 billion to £1.6 billion in 2015/2016.”10
This resulted in “a number of areas of law” that are no longer “covered.”11For
example, cases regarding “family law…, social welfare, housing, medical negligence”12
and so forth. The government cuts show us that the reason why legal aid was
created in the first place is not taken into account anymore. Legal aid was
supposed to include every case that an individual needed representation for.
However, in contemporary society it is very hard to be eligible for legal aid, since
you cannot be represented if your case involves most civil issues, such as
family matters. Therefore, Legal aid can be said not to be for everyone, as
many people are now left unrepresented.

 

In
addition, it is very hard to be permitted legal aid. The financial calculations
themselves are over-complicated. They firstly have to find out what your
monthly income is, and it if is “£2,657 or less, your solicitor will then check
what your disposable income is.”13
If after having paid all of your expenses and you are left with “over £315, you
will have to pay a monthly contribution if you’re getting Legal Representation.”14
If you do not work, then your “capital will be looked at,”15
whereby they will oversee your possessions. It is also not seen as fair that
even if one that has applied for legal aid and has won a case, “alternative
means of paying a lawyer’s fee”16
need to be found, “whether based on insurance or parceling out of the winner’s
award of damages.” It is therefore not just and fair when although they win a
case, there is a possibility that they could be left with nothing. Furthermore,
it is not equal since this would not happen to those that are part of the high
spectrum of society (those who are well-off).

 

Furthermore,
domestic violence victims might find it difficult to get justice, as they are
required to present proof of the occurrence of domestic violence within the
last five years. This makes it difficult for women to gain legal aid as the
requirements for legal aid should come in the form of police reports, doctors
reports and so on. However, proof of abuse in order to get legal aid might be
hard to provide as it is well known that most domestic violence victims are
often reluctant to involve any form of public authority. This is supported by
statistics, such as the Office for National statistic which shows that by the
end of march 2017 1.9 million adults alone have been involved in domestic
violence. However, statistic show that on 46% have been reported. Limited changes
in the requirements for those who suffer domestic violence has resulted in a
significant decrease in the number of domestic victims seeking legal aid. 17
Additionally, there is no legal aid for cases regarding asylum or immigration.

 

To
conclude, considering all the reforms and cuts that have been made on Legal Aid,
it seems as though now Legal Aid does not exist for the sole purpose of helping
the poor, but for helping those who are well off. Since many people cannot
afford to pay back the solicitors that they had through Legal Aid, they are marginalized.
Their cases will not be represented, which therefore means that Legal Aid does
not offer justice for all, but just for those who can afford to pay back for
the help they received from the legal teams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Legal Aid Board, Legal Aid Handbook 1992(published in
1992, Sweet & Maxwell) 3

2 Legal Aid and Advice Act 1949

3 Legal Aid Board, Legal Aid Handbook 1992(published in
1992, Sweet & Maxwell) 3

4 The Law Society, ‘Legal Aid’ http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/for-the-public/paying-for-legal-services/legal-aid/
accessed 27 January 2018

5 Reginald Heber Smith, ‘Legal Aid
and Advice: The Rushcliffe Report as a Land-Mark’ page 446 (published by
American Bar Association) http://0-www.jstor.org.serlib0.essex.ac.uk/stable/pdf/25715955.pdf?refreqid=search%3A8fa857af204a0912dad3b9932fd2b99c
accessed 28 January 2018

6 Access to Justice Act 1999 s1

7 Help
with legal costs- legal aid, ‘free legal advice at the police station’, https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/wales/law-and-courts/legal-system/taking-legal-action/help-with-legal-costs-legal-aid/
accessed 27 January 2018

8Legal
aid, ‘cases where you can get legal aid’, http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/for-the-public/paying-for-legal-services/legal-aid/
accessed 27 January 2018

9
ibid.

10 Sarah
Moore and Alex Newbury, Legal Aid in
Crisis (first published in 2017, Policy Press) 4

11
ibid

12 ibid

13
Help with costs- legal aid, ‘Legal aid if you have income’ https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/wales/law-and-courts/legal-system/taking-legal-action/help-with-legal-costs-legal-aid/
accessed 28 January 2018

14
ibid

15
Help with costs- legal aid, ‘Legal aid if you have capital’ https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/wales/law-and-courts/legal-system/taking-legal-action/help-with-legal-costs-legal-aid/
accessed 28 January 2018

16
Alastair Hudson, Towards a Just Society
(first published 1999, A Cassell imprint) 3

17 John
Flatley, ‘Domestic abuse in England and Wales: year ending March 2017’, https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/bulletins/domesticabuseinenglandandwales/yearendingmarch2017
accessed 28 January 2018