Speaking on Daybreak, Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, president of Law Society, said government plans to reduce the number of civil cases eligible for legal aid - and in turn save money - could in fact end up costing the tax payer more:
– A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman
We need to make sure taxpayers' money is not spent resolving too many disputes in court, when there are quicker, cheaper and less stressful options available.
At £2 billion a year we have one of the most expensive legal aid systems in the world, and it's now costing taxpayers too much at time when resources are not limitless. We had to make some difficult decisions, and it was not a process we embarked on lightly, but we have safeguarded legal aid to ensure lawyers are there for those who really need them.
The Law Society, which represents solicitors in England and Wales, warned that "people could start taking the law into their own hands as a result of an inability to seek justice following the government's civil legal aid cuts".
Richard Miller, head of Legal Aid at the Law Society, said: "We have warned the government consistently that, as well as all the knock-on costs, the social consequences will be damaging to the whole of society, not just the vulnerable who will take the worst hit of all."
Solicitors have warned people could start "taking the law into their own hands," as changes to legal aid remove swathes of areas of law from its scope.
The reforms come into effect today, as the government moves to reduce its £2.2 billion legal aid bill by £350 million. Areas impacted include:
- Private family law, such as divorce and custody battles
- Personal injury cases
- Some employment and education law
- Immigration cases where the person is not detained
- Some debt, housing and benefit issues
Some law firms estimate the reforms will reduce the number of people who qualify for legal aid by 75 percent, meaning around 200,000 fewer cases, while barristers have warned the cuts are the biggest to civil legal aid since the system was introduced in 1949.