Young Legal Aid Lawyers (YLAL) welcomes the publication today (22 May 2019) of the final report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Philip Alston, following his visit to the United Kingdom in November 2018.
The UN Special Rapporteur rightly states that legal aid has been "dramatically reduced" in England and Wales since the introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO). The report notes that the number of cases funded by civil legal aid "declined by a staggering 82 per cent between 2010-11 and 2017-18".
The report's conclusion that "many poor people are unable to effectively claim and enforce their rights" will come as no surprise to legal aid lawyers. It should, however, act as a catalyst for the government to change course and reverse the cuts to legal aid made since 2012.
It is disappointing, therefore, that the government has described the report by the UN Special Rapporteur as a "barely believable documentation" of Britain. On the contrary, the report is based on verifiable facts and should not be discounted by ministers simply because it accurately describes the negative impact of government policies.
We call on the Ministry of Justice and the government as a whole to give serious consideration to the findings of this report and to act accordingly to urgently address extreme poverty, protect human rights and improve access to justice in the UK.
Read our statement in response to the report below.