Jeremy Corbyn has said that “Society cannot survive on charity, goodwill, and food banks. It has to rely on the basis of a welfare state that ensures that no one falls into destitution, and a legal system that ensures no one goes unrepresented in the courts.”
He said that he shares agreement with members of his shadow justice team, that the Labour party under Ed Miliband’s leadership had not given legal aid the attention it deserved in the last general election.
“It wasn’t given enough prominence either by us or in the general debates at the election itself, I want to see a rights-based society and the right to justice is crucial, therefore the right to legal aid is absolutely essential,” he said.
The Labour party leader said the government’s £350m worth of cuts to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) budget had clearly meant many people were not getting justice, and in many cases were going unrepresented in court.
Speaking exclusively to Solicitors Journal, following a barnstorming address at a legal aid forum to a gathering of legal professionals, Jeremy Corbyn said the government’s reforms to the justice system meant firms were pulling out of legal aid to concentrate on more lucrative practice areas, to the detriment of young practitioners.
“At the moment a lot of lawyers feel they can’t be dealing with legal aid, they have to find something else to do, hence the number of firms that don’t want to get involved in legal aid or just do commercial law because that is the only way they can make a living. It is not good for anyone. We need a proper legal system,” said Corbyn.
“It is a deterrent for young people going into law in the future, so we end up with young lawyers not being able to work. If you can, stick at it. Try and stay there because people need good lawyers. They need that representation. I want to see the restoration of legal aid in the new parliament and hopefully we will have a Labour majority to bring it about.”
Labour plan to produce a draft report on the legal aid crisis by April next year and present a finished version at the Labour party conference in Liverpool in September 2016 that can then be used as a “thoughtful and credible justice policy” by the party.
You can read the full exclusive article from Solictors Journal here