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Lord Neuberger warns of legal aid cuts

The country’s most senior judge has warned that cuts to legal aid could end up costing the Government more and denying people access to justice.

Lord Neuberger, president of the Supreme Court, has raised concerns over the forthcoming cuts to legal aid across a range of civil cases in England and Wales and suggested people could even end up “taking the law into their own hands”.

From April, legal aid will be restricted in a bid to save £350m a year by 2015. The move means people involved in cases concerning social welfare debt, employment disputes or family problems would no longer be allowed legal aid.

Aid will continue for some cases of family law, including domestic violence.

Lord Neuberger said that more people would have to pay for private advice, find charitable help, or represents themselves when trying to settle disputes. This could end up costing more, due to longer trials and a greater need for support from the court.

He told the BBC: “My worry is the removal of legal aid for people to get advice about law and get representation in court will start to undermine the rule of law because people will feel like the Government isn't giving them access to justice in all sorts of cases.

“And that will either lead to frustration and lack of confidence in the system, or it will lead to people taking the law into their own hands. This will mean that court hearings will last longer, the burden on court staff and judges will increase.

“And you may find the savings the Government thinks it's making in legal aid will be offset in other costs of courts and judges and court staff in supporting litigants in person.”

In a statement the Ministry of Justice said: “Legal aid will continue to be provided to those who most need it, such as where domestic violence is involved, where people's life or liberty is at stake or the loss of their home.”

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Image c. Ian Nicholson/PA Wire/Press Association Images


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