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Access to justice restricted beyond the ‘reasonable endurance of ordinary citizens’

Cuts to the Ministry of Justice's administrative budget are a 'big concern', says Bar Council chair

26 November 2015

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The chairman of the Bar Council, Alistair MacDonald QC, has urged the government to ensure that access to justice is not further restricted following the chancellor's spending review.

George Osborne pledged yesterday to invest more than £700m in the courts and tribunals system over the course of the next five years.

MacDonald said that investment aimed at modernising the court system and tribunals was vital to the successful reform of our criminal justice system, however, the government's cuts to the Ministry of Justice's administrative budget of 50 per cent was a 'big concern'.

'Since LASPO was enacted, hundreds of thousands of people have been left without access to legal advice, often in serious cases involving custody of children, victims of domestic violence, and access to housing, education, health and welfare services,' said the leading silk.

'The introduction of court fees means people must now pay to £10,000 in order to get access to the courts if they are injured at work or if they are a small business chasing a late payer,' he continued.

The Justice Committee's recently released and damning report highlighted how the criminal courts charge as 'grossly disproportionate' after it had heard evidence that the controversial charge was a symbol of a 'medieval' justice system.

In October, the Bar Council said the financial situation of an innocent defendant may leave them with little choice but to plead guilty.

MacDonald reiterated his stance by saying that the criminal justice system was 'creaking to the point where people accused of crimes do not always have a properly qualified legal representative to defend them'.

Macdonald QC added that access to justice had already been restricted beyond the 'reasonable endurance of ordinary citizens' and asked the government: 'How do we make sure access to justice is not restricted even further?'

Matthew Rogers is an editorial assistant at Solicitors Journal

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