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MoJ playing 'fast and loose' with impact of legal aid cuts

17 March 2011

The Ministry of Justice has been accused of playing “fast and loose” with the figures behind its civil legal aid cuts and underestimating the number of victims by more than 150,000.

Steve Hynes, director of the Legal Action Group, said its research showed that 30 per cent more people than the government estimated would lose access to advice with family, housing, employment, debt and other civil legal problems.

“We believe this provides a further reason for ministers to think again about imposing the planned cuts,” Hynes said. “If they do not, over 650,000 people will be denied access to justice.”

Hynes said LAG’s research was triggered when Julie Bishop, director of the Law Centres Federation, noticed that the MoJ’s statistics on social welfare law were based on 2008/09 case data, rather than the larger number for 2009/10.

Further research by LAG revealed that the MoJ used data for cases completed rather than cases started and did not include telephone cases.

It concluded that the legal aid cuts in their present form would reduce the number of cases started by 653,659 or 151,659 more than the government estimated.

LAG said its research raised “grave concerns” over the extent of the cuts.

“The government has used outdated and understated statistics which underestimate the impact of the proposals,” said Hynes.

“We would hope the publication of these figures will give the government reason to think again before introducing cuts in legal aid which would deny access to justice to over 650,000 members of the public.”

Categorised in:

Legal Aid Local government