Over the last two years, LAPG co-chair Nicola Mackintosh QC (Hon), committee members Julie Bishop and Laura Janes and director Carol Storer have been sitting on the Bach Commission. We heard from more than 100 individuals and organisations.
The commission has found that cuts to legal aid have created a two-tier justice system where the poorest go without representation or advice. People should have a right to justice they can afford.
In its final report published today, the commission calls on the government and other political parties to ensure minimum standards on access to justice are upheld through a new Right to Justice Act.
The proposed Right to Justice Act will:
- Codify our existing rights to justice and establish a new right for individuals to receive reasonable legal assistance without costs they cannot afford
- Establish a set of principles that guide interpretation of this new right
- Establish a new body called the Justice Commission to monitor and enforce this new right
To make the act a reality, the commission also sets out an immediate action plan for the government to: widen the scope of legal aid, with a focus on early legal help; reform the eligibility requirements for legal aid; replace the Legal Aid Agency with an independent body; and improve the public’s understanding of the law.
To read the appendices to the report and see the written evidence the commission has received, please click here.
Lord Bach a former minister for legal aid chaired the commission. Sir Henry Brooke was vice chair and did an extraordinary amount of work pulling together the evidence. The Fabian Society did a great job writing the report.
Nicola Mackintosh QC (Hon), co-chair of LAPG and member of the Commission stated:
“We all need justice and more importantly, access to it. The combination of legal aid cuts, court closures, and unaffordable court fees has resulted in the vast majority of people being unable to access the legal help they need. Justice has therefore been reserved only for the privileged few. This undermines the rule of law and risks the breakdown of society.
The current system is broken. People are left to represent themselves in court or just give up because they do not have the legal help they need. This costs the taxpayer more, and is unacceptable in a civilised society.
Legal aid needs to be available when people need it, where they need it. Urgent changes are required to address the current crisis in our court and justice system.
The Bach Commission report signals a new era where everyone’s right to justice is enshrined in law. This gives justice the status it requires and deserves, now and in the future.”
There will be a launch event at the Labour Party Conference on Monday 25th September 12.30 -2 in the Glyndebourne Room at the Holiday Inn in the centre of Brighton. All welcome.