People should have a right to justice they can afford, urges a major new report on access to our justice system.
The Fabian Society acted as the secretariat for the Bach Commission which has heard from more than 100 individuals and organisations over the past two years. The commission has found that that cuts to legal aid have created a two-tier justice system where the poorest go without representation or advice.
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 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.
Commenting on the report, Lord Bach, chair of the Bach Commission on Access to Justice, said:
“No person should be denied justice simply because they cannot afford it. We need a new Act which defends and extends the right to justice, and we need a new body tasked with implementing it.
“The government must take urgent action to address the crisis in our justice system. This means broadening the scope of legal aid, reforming eligibility requirements and taking action to improve the public’s understanding of the law.”
Commenting on the report, Fabian Society general secretary Andrew Harrop said:
“This report sets out a radical new approach to fix the crisis in the justice system. The new Right to Justice Act will extend our legal rights, and create a new infrastructure to defend them.
“The Commission has heard deeply concerning evidence about the crisis in our justice system. Its proposals should be considered seriously by all politicians and policy makers.”
Following the publication of the Bach Commission Report, Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon MP said:
“Lord Bach and his commission of respected legal experts are to be commended for their in-depth report.
“Tens of thousands of people have been priced out of defending their rights in recent years as a result of swingeing Conservative government cuts in the justice sector, that have hit the most vulnerable hardest.
“There is much to be welcomed in this pioneering report. I am particularly excited by the idea of a new legally enforceable Right to Justice, that would guarantee access just as we have for healthcare and education.
“Labour will be coming forward with detailed plans on how we will take forward Lord Bach’s recommendations in government, as part of our efforts to repair a justice system that is in crisis.
“The Conservative government should now stop dragging its feet and get on with publishing its own delayed review into its legal aid changes. There is much in Lord Bach’s report that the government could implement ahead of the next election if it is serious about restoring access to justice.”
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- Contact: Claire Sewell, head of media and communications at the Fabian Society – 0207 227 4906 / 07905776318 / firstname.lastname@example.org
- Download the report (under strict embargo until 00.01 on Friday 22 September)
- The commissioners are: Lord Bach, Sir Henry Brooke CMG, Raju Bhatt, Julie Bishop, Joanne Cecil, Andrea Davies, David Gilmore, Nick Hanning, Dr Laura Janes, Andrew Keogh, Nicola Mackintosh QC, Carol Storer OBE, Bill Waddington. The special advisers are: John Cooper QC and James Sandbach.
- When the government first introduced LASPO it estimated it would save £450m a year in today’s prices. But last year, legal aid spending was actually £950m less than in 2010. The Fabian Society estimate that the costs of the proposals in this report will initially total less than this underspend, at an estimated cost of around £400m per year. Key components of this estimate include: £120m for widening the scope of early legal help; £110m for extending eligibility for civil legal aid; £60m for limited widening of the scope of civil legal representation; and £50m for a national fund for advice services.
- The report is published by the Fabian Society, who provide the secretariat for the Bach Commission. The report is written in the collective voice of the Commissioners, and represents the views of the Commissioners alone.
- The Fabian Society is Britain’s oldest political think tank. Founded in 1884, the society is at the forefront of developing political ideas and public policy on the left. The society is alone among think tanks in being a democratically-constituted membership organisation, with over 7,000 members. It is constitutionally affiliated to the Labour part.
- The two-year Bach Commission is an independent commission, chaired by Labour peer Lord Bach. It held its first meeting in January 2016.
- The report only covers the justice system in England and Wales, and our proposals apply to everyone subject to the law of England and Wales. Some of our proposals could be implemented on a UK-wide basis.
- Download the interim report
- Download the executive summary (under strict embargo until 00.01 on Friday 22 September)
- Download the Bach Commission’s list of recommendations (under strict embargo until 00.01 on Friday 22 September)
- To arrange a broadcast interview with Lord Bach or one of the other commissioners on Friday 22 September please contact: Claire Sewell on 07905 776318 or email@example.com