The number of civil legal help cases has dropped by two thirds since the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) was introduced, according to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ)
Provisional quarterly figures from the MoJ and the Legal Aid Agency revealed that civil legal aid expenditure dropped by 4 per cent and legal help expenditure fell by almost 25 per cent in October-December 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.
There was also a significant drop (12 per cent) in the number of applications for civil representation supported by domestic violence or child abuse evidence. The number of applications actually granted fell by 15 per cent on the same period in 2019.
However, there appeared to be a greater willingness to enter mediation with the number of mediation exceeding re-covid-19 levels and the number of mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAMS) up 14 per cent.
The MoJ said mediation starts were 11 per cent higher and outcomes were 16 per cent higher.
Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said the decrease in applications for civil representations supported by domestic violence or child abuse evidence was concerning.
She commented: “At a time when we know there has been considerable escalation in domestic abuse cases, this reduction raises questions regarding the barrier to legal aid that the ‘domestic violence gateway’ requirements represent and we continue to call on government to allow solicitors to certify that a person is a victim of abuse for the purposes of obtaining legal aid.”
“We are also concerned by the continued decrease in exceptional case funding applications”, added Boyce, ading that the 7 per cent decrease on the same quarter last year “suggests the pandemic has increased the challenge in making these applications”.