Solicitors urge reform of legal aid

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The Independent Online
SOLICITORS yesterday called for the closure of loopholes that allow rich people to qualify for legal aid while people living just above the poverty line are denied it.

The Law Society, which represents 60,000 solicitors in England and Wales, called on the Government to reform the system so affluent applicants had to explain how they could afford their lifestyles - and face refusal of help from the pounds 1.2bn legal aid budget unless it was clear they could not meet their own costs. The fact that an applicant lived in a luxurious house should be taken into account.

Courts which froze assets that were in dispute should leave enough available for the person involved to meet legal costs, it said.

Charles Elly, president of the Law Society, said: 'Government cuts have meant that many people living just above the poverty line are no longer able to get legal aid. That makes it particularly galling to see many apparently wealthy individuals getting legal aid through loopholes . . . The Government should act urgently to stop the waste and make sure that taxpayers' money for legal aid is used for those who really need it.'