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East Midlands Parliamentary Candidate Julia Cambridge slams the cuts to legal aid and calls for them to be reversed in the 2015 Liberal Democrat Manifesto

February 24, 2014 2:22 PM
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

Julia Cambridge has put forward a robust call for cuts to the legal aid budget to be halted and savings to be found by increased efficiency.

Julia Cambridge with David Ward MP

Julia Cambridge with David Ward MP

At the regional party's Spring Conference she tabled a policy motion calling for the national party to include a reversal of the cuts in its general election manifesto which is being drawn up now. The motion was carried and states as follows:

  • The Government cuts have resulted in a drastic change to the public funding of the 'Legal Aid' system.
  • Since April 2013 Legal Aid has no longer been available to individuals who wish to receive advice and assistance from solicitors for matters such as divorce, dissolution of civil partnerships, financial disputes, cohabitation disputes and disputes about children. Family law, and particularly criminal law cases, which made up the bulk of Legal Aid cases, have been left to the will of the market with those who have money able to buy better services and advice.
  • In the area of family law Legal Aid will only be available to individuals who have been the victim of domestic violence. However, previous incidents must have been reported to the police where a crime reference number can be quoted. Legal Aid will also continue to be available to parents who have had their children taken into local authority care.
  • Since the abolition of the system of Legal Aid many people, particularly women and the low paid, are unable to access proper legal advice and representation. The need for legal help and advice is often sought during times of crisis in people's lives. Anything from neighbourhood disputes, workplace bullying and divorce can cause great suffering to your quality of life and may result in further costs to society through pressure on health services and lost work hours.
  • The system in place as a safety net for the lowest paid and unwaged has been pulled away.
  • 'We therefore propose that as part of the Liberal Democrat Manifesto for 2015 the principle of fairness is upheld by reinstating a robust Legal Aid system.

Following the conference Julia Cambridge said: "Our justice system has always been the by word of democracy in action. Only now we are putting a price on justice. Access to justice shouldn't be dependent on the size of your bank balance.

"The message here is if you have money you can buy justice with the low waged reduced to either going into debt or representing themselves. A false economy as the changes could also end up costing the government more."

Julia, Chesterfields Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, has been taking representations from members of the public who have been affected by the cuts along with talking to the solicitors who may well now give up all legal aid work.

"This level of cuts is already destroying the link between the pastoral support of the legal profession and the public. Legal Aid was never about lawyers making a fast buck; it provided a genuine service for those most at need. Today I'm calling on my party to reinstate a robust properly funded system of legal aid with savings made through efficiency not by removing the principle of fairness."