Proposed cuts to the legal aid bill of £240 million could backfire badly as the move would lead to unbudgeted costs of at least £139 million as the burden of those unable to pursue accident claims is absorbed by other departments, a recent research study found.
The Law Society-commissioned study discovered that stripping legal aid funds could prove to be a disastrous financial assistance. In one instance, it was found that eliminating legal aid for medical negligence claimants would triple the National Health Service’s costs and thus wipe out any savings made by the budget cuts. Donna Covey, a representative from the Refugee Council, commented on the report, stating that reducing legal aid would effectively marginalise vulnerable members of society and delay economic growth and recovery even further in one fell swoop.
Ms Covey felt that the loss of access of justice for those unable to bring personal injury claims without legal aid is completely unacceptable. She also called into question the reasoning behind the decision on the part of the government, especially as the difficulties presented to refugees and asylum-seekers in their attempts to get legal assistance were already too high.
The Refugee Council strongly urged the government to adopt the alternative proposals made by the Law Society in order to avoid the loss of access to justice. Gail Emerson, a Justice for All spokesperson, agreed, calling the research findings the last ‘nail in the coffin’ of the legal aid cuts proposed by the government and adding that while the immorality of making savings at the expense of the most vulnerable members of society was bad enough, but causing untold social harm whilst creating extra costs could not possibly be justified.