Access to justice should be a right, says report

A statutory right to justice is needed to resolve the legal aid crisis, according to the final report of the Bach Commission.

The commission, chaired by Labour’s former justice minister Lord Bach, and set up by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, said a Right to Justice Act would be monitored and enforced by a Justice Commission.

To address the current ‘crisis’ in access to justice, it proposed urgent policy changes, including increasing the number of people eligible for legal aid by reforming the means test and restoring legal aid for early advice.

During the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Solicitor General, Robert Buckland QC, gave his backing to limited legal aid reform. Speaking at a fringe event organised by LawWorks he accepted that gaps in provision had created ‘unfairness’ and said ‘there is a strong case for a significant increase in funding for early advice’.

At an event organised by the Society of Conservative Lawyers with the Bar Council and Law Society, the Lord Chancellor, David Lidington, said the government will ‘soon’ launch its post-legislative review of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.

It will, he said, provide an ‘opportunity to take stock and to see whether there are good arguments for specific changes to be made’. But, he stressed: ‘I’m not going to pretend that I have a crock of gold that the Chancellor has suddenly presented me with.’ 

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