John Vander Luit

Editor, Solicitors Journal

Lib Dems pledge LASPO review and more funding for criminal legal aid

Lib Dems pledge LASPO review and more funding for criminal legal aid


Insurance for company directors to help fund justice spend, says party's manifesto

The Liberal Democrats will conduct an 'urgent and comprehensive' review of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act and its effect on access to justice if they are elected to power.

'The justice system is under pressure. Brexit threatens international co-operation, the Conservatives have failed to defend the rule of law which is the cornerstone of our democracy, and cuts to legal aid have denied effective access to justice to many,' says the party's manifesto.

The Lib Dems promised to 'reverse the massive increases' in court and tribunal fees, which 'prevent many from pursuing good cases', and would 'secure further funding for criminal legal aid from sources other than the taxpayer', including insurance for company directors.

They also pledged to continue to modernise and simplify court procedures and protect judicial review from further attack, retaining government accountability for unlawful action, and 'offer a staunch defence of our judiciary and the rule of law'.

The Lib Dems also vowed to oppose attempts to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights or abolish or water down the Human Rights Act.

'Liberal Democrats believe that we should all be free from an overreaching state and that the individual freedoms guaranteed by the ECHR and the Human Rights Act are central to a free and democratic society,' says the manifesto.

On Brexit, the party says it will ensure the UK retains international arrangements, such as the recognition and enforcement of judgments and for family cases currently enjoyed under the EU Brussels I and II regulations and the Hague child abduction convention.

Other policy pledges in the manifesto's 'Defend Rights, Promote Justice, and Equalities' section include: introduction of a Victims' Bill of Rights and a Digital Bill of Rights; commencement of part two of the Leveson inquiry; repeal of the Psychoactive Substances Act; and introduction of a 'legal, regulated market' for cannabis to 'break the grip of the criminal gangs'.

Elsewhere, under new devolution plans, Wales would become a 'distinct legal jurisdiction' from England.