The law centres movement, through the concept of community legal services, has operated for more than 20 years a home-visiting service, for the very reasons that Mr Montague identifies as preventing people attending at solicitors' offices. But there are other reasons why people cannot go to solicitors, one being the recent changes to legal aid eligibility, a further erosion of the principle of equal access to legal justice for all.
The ability of law centres to continue to provide peripatetic legal services to the public is affected by such cuts and by cuts to their sources of government funding. Two law centres in London alone have been closed this year as a result of a total cut in their local government funding.
It would be nice to think that the conventional legal profession would be able to adapt to the needs of the public, and for this Mr Montague has to be admired. However, the financial constraints upon private practitioners are such that in the long term this is difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.
Law centres do not have these monetarist constraints, but unfortunately they do have a whole host of others. It is clear that there is a pressing need for the Government to recognise that private practice alone is unable, for a variety of reasons, to offer the public the legal service that it requires. If the Government is committed to equal access to the law, it is high time it provided secure and adequate funding for a national network of community-based law centres.
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