Warning legal aid cuts risk a “two tier justice system”
Years of cuts to legal aid mean the UK is “heading towards a two tier justice system”, Counsel General Mick Antoniw recently (08 October 2021) warned.
In a keynote speech to the Legal Wales conference, he contrasted the devastating cuts to legal aid with the “obscene” amount of money spent by the UK government on prisons and called for a greater focus on alternatives to custody and help to prevent people offending.
His comments echo those made by the 2019 independent Commission on Justice in Wales. Chaired by Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, it found people were being let down by the justice system and recommended significant reforms.
In his speech to the conference, the Counsel General and Minister for Constitution recently said:
In Wales and in the rest of the UK we are heading towards an increasingly two tier justice system.
One where those with the necessary resources have access to the justice system and those without – usually the poorest and most vulnerable in our society – do not and are effectively excluded from it, often just becoming, disempowered, angry and frustrated victims of the justice system and whatever it delivers to them.
The Welsh Government is not funded to step in and fill these gaps in legal aid provision, although, as acknowledged in the Thomas report, we have attempted to at least meet some of the most desperate areas of need.
The UK government removed legal aid from large areas of civil law, while criminal cases are subject to means testing, to reduce the annual cost of legal aid.
The Welsh Government’s Single Advice Fund supports people who need advice and can help with representation at court and tribunals, but it is not a replacement for legal aid.
Calling for a different approach to criminal justice policy and sentencing, the Counsel General added:
The single biggest problem with Wales’s justice system is the number of people going to prison, and the length of time they are spending there.
The amount the UK government spends on prisons is obscene, especially when contrasted with a decade of cuts to legal aid and of budgets for courts, prosecutors, probation services and many other elements of the justice system.
If we had the power to set criminal justice policy and sentencing, we could reduce the prison population and invest the savings in alternatives to custody, or in the things that stop people offending in the first place.
The Legal Wales Conference, hosted at the Law Library at the Law Courts in Cathays Park, provides a platform for discussion on constitutional and legal developments in Wales.
Latest News from
Way to GO Wales!15/10/2021 16:25:00
The Government Opportunities (GO) Welsh Public Procurement Conference 2021 is coming to Wales on 30 November!
Wales to showcase its egg-cellent food and drink to the world15/10/2021 14:10:00
There are less than two weeks until the return of Wales’ largest international food and drink event, BlasCymru / TasteWales.
Thousands of Welsh farms to receive early payment support14/10/2021 15:20:00
More than 15,600 farm businesses across Wales will tomorrow receive a share of over £159.6m in Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) Advance payments, Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths has announced.
Funding to improve ventilation in schools and learning environments14/10/2021 14:20:00
£3.31 million will be available to improve ventilation in schools, colleges and universities in Wales, Education Minister Jeremy Miles has announced.
‘Vaccines are best way to help NHS ahead of challenging winter’ – Health Minister13/10/2021 11:05:00
People eligible for booster COVID-19 vaccinations and flu jabs are encouraged to take up the offer ahead of a challenging winter for NHS Wales, the Health Minister has said.
29 new projects that will help ‘Team Wales’ tackle climate and nature emergencies12/10/2021 14:05:00
From donkeys in Snowdonia to the salmon of the River Usk and everything in between, the Welsh Government has today confirmed 29 projects across Wales that will benefit from the Nature Networks Fund.
Message from the First Minister: Support for EU settlement scheme in Wales12/10/2021 09:05:00
Message given yesterday by the First Minister: Support for EU settlement scheme in Wales.
Wales introduces COVID Pass for events and nightclubs11/10/2021 14:05:00
People in Wales must show a COVID Pass or demonstrate their COVID-19 status to enter nightclubs and attend large events from today.