In 2008 the government cut legal aid by £350m. With plans for another £215m of cuts, speculation surrounding the impact this may have on those needing representation is growing. We consider how the region will fare should these cuts go through.
- Newcastle solicitors say North East unprotected
Generally cuts have been most keenly felt in the North East. And the same would be applicable should the changes to legal aid come to fruition. It is predicted more than 11,000 people in the region will soon be denied help. The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) says those in debt, contesting unfair dismissal, or making an appeal after denial of benefits will suffer most.
- Wide-ranging effects
More than £600m will be removed from the budget in total, with few areas of the legal practice to be spared cuts. The first round targeted civil claims, but by 2018 criminal courts will suffer too. This means that everything from divorce settlements to criminal prosecutions will be hit in the same way.
- The poor hit hardest
Legal advice for welfare claims has already been removed. The fear now is that the poorest in society could be left unable to identify the credibility of their case and unable to pursue one even if they feel they do have grounds to seek legal representation.
- Complex cases receive less attention
Under the old system, solicitors would be paid hourly, meaning that complex, time-consuming work was profitable. Now solicitors are paid a flat rate depending on the case, making it increasingly likely that cases will receive less attention, poorer representation or no representation will be provided at all because it is not cost efficient to do so.
The challenge now faced by reputable solicitors in Newcastle – and across the country, for that matter – is to ensure that the focus remains on supporting clients and putting them first in a rapidly changing legal climate.
This article was supplied by Beecham Peacock. As a leading UK law firm based in Newcastle, Beecham Peacock provides expert help and advice across a broad range of legal problems. For more information visit www.beechampeacock.co.uk or call 0191 232 3048