The Bach report (a report that tries to ensure we can access our right to justice especially for those who cannot access it due to the current rules) came out on 22 September and is a very interesting read.
The report addresses several issues which of course hit close to home for those dealing with legal aid on a day to day basis. We at Hodge Jones and Allen work on an ethos of access to justice and strive to achieve this for our clients but sometimes our hands are tied due to the issues we have faced since LASPO.
Lord Bach emphasises the issue of restoring access because it is recognised that the justice system is in crisis. It is recognised also that vulnerable and poor individuals should have the #RightToJustice. He proposes new enforceable rights via Right to Justice Act which will ensure the following:
- Reasonable legal assistance without costs they cannot afford
- New set of principles to guide us
- New body called Justice Commission to monitor and enforce the new right
- Legal aid Eligibility rules must be reformed – simpler more generous assessment scheme so all benefit recipients are entitled to legal aid and legal aid contributions be reduced
- Legal aid scope to be reviewed and extended – all children matters to be in scope and we should introduce early legal help work to encourage parties to mediate/dispute resolution
- An independent body not connected to the government should replace the LAA
- Providing more information on the public legal capability
There is an urgent need to bring back certain areas of civil law into the scope of legal aid. We need to establish a new right to legal assistance that vulnerable people can afford. This may be the first step.
Daniel Fitzpatrick, who is a housing representative on the Law Society Council, states
‘This is a very good report addressing all the areas that we are struggling with. Cuts to legal aid have affected so many and this may put things in place to seek #AccessToJustice. There is an urgent need to bring back certain areas of civil law into the scope of legal aid. This may be the first step – #RightToJustice’
This report has provoked a debate about the access to justice and highlights that fact that not everyone can access justice with the reforms of recent years. If the government adheres to the recommendations then we can ensure that all individuals have a #RightToJustice but how realistic is it? Many have said that the government is unlikely to even consider the changes recommended so will this report make a difference?