Legal aid is a crucial social service which helps countless people when it is needed the most. It is a social service which assists to balance the access to legal resources between the rich and the poor. Furthermore, legal aid helps provide stories about solicitors in London helping innocent victims and social justice generally.
Sadly though, it seems that legal aid and the Ministry of Justice will be a victim of the widespread cuts being assembled by the coalition government. It has been reported that there was already strain on the Ministry of Justice to make savings of around 25% and now it seems that by 2014 £2.1 billion is to be saved from the legal aid budget.
Legal aid is almost certain to face significant cuts, and quite a few people have taken issue with this possibility. A key argument made by such people is that legal aid acts as a check against nonsensical decisions made by central and local governments.
There are those who claim that the government has a habit of making poor or unjust decisions which only anger those less fortunate. These are people who often do not have the means to effectively challenge these decisions and therefore depend on legal aid to guide them through the confusing (sometimes even to lawyers in London) legal system.
Critics argue that cutting legal aid will have a devastating effect on the UK legal system as it will significantly restrict access to a vital social service. It is thanks to legal aid that cases have been made against issues such as the use of torture and the right to protest. It is the general consensus that everyone’s civil rights will suffer without the ability to properly challenge the government on matters and those who need legal aid the most will not have access to it.
Of course this is an entire issue in and of itself. Cutting legal aid will restrict the impoverished from taking part fairly in the legal system and perhaps politics more generally. Without access to a solicitor in London or elsewhere, the opportunity for legal involvement is effectively non-existent.
With such an huge budget deficit it is hard to argue against making cuts and there is no doubt that welfare spending is a big expense. Critics can argue that civil liberties and social justice will be damaged by cutting any area of welfare.
While the above response may be true, it appears to be obvious that equal access to legal services granted through legal aid is a fundamental aspect of British democracy that should not be sacrificed for political points.