Peer's fury as legal aid cuts affect 500,000


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The Independent Online

The Government's legal aid reforms coming into effect on Monday have been branded a "day of shame for our legal system" by the former minister and Labour peer Lord Bach.

He posted a Regret Motion in the House of Lords this week that won by 166 votes to 161. Regret motions do not have any binding power but indicate peers' disapproval of ministers' actions.

The legal aid reforms will leave an estimated 500,000 people with no access to legal help from Monday. Of these, around 200,000 will miss out because legal aid will not be provided for family law cases which involve separation and divorce, child custody or financial issues arising from changing circumstances.

"Without wishing to frighten people, I think the impact of these cuts is going to be horrendous," warned Joanna Kemp, of the law firm Barlow Robbins. "People who can't afford solicitors are among the most vulnerable in our society and these changes are going to mean that they are effectively excluded from justice.

"Moreover, other users of the court system for whatever reason are going to see a considerable increase in delay, which is only going to be harmful to society in the long run."

Katy Gittins, of Absolute Barrister, agreed. "These changes risk significant numbers of people being excluded from access to legal services," she warned. Her firm puts people in direct contact with barristers, cutting back on solicitors' fees.

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