The Westminster Commission on Legal Aid, Criminal Legal Aid Session

The Westminster Commission on Legal Aid, Criminal Legal Aid Session

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Oral Evidence Session on the Sustainability of Criminal Legal Aid

About this event

The Oral Evidence Session on the Sustainability of Criminal Legal Aid will be the first oral evidence session of the Inquiry into the Sustainability of Legal Aid.

On this occation, the Westminster Commission on Legal Aid will be hearing evidence about the realities of working in the criminal justice system from:

  • Bill Waddington (Williamsons Solicitors and CLSA)
  • Kerry Hudson (Bullivant Law and LCCSA)
  • Rakesh Bhasin (Edwards Duthie Shamash Solicitors and LCCSA)
  • Anthony Graham (Amosu Robinshaw Solicitors and BSN)
  • Laura Janes (Howard League for Penal Reform, and prison law specialist)
  • Joanna Hardy (barrister, Red Lion Chambers)
  • Richard Miller (Head of Justice, The Law Society)

The Inquiry

The Westminster Commission on Legal Aid is a cross-party initiative formed by the APPG on Legal Aid to examine the state of the legal aid sector as it emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The sustainability of the legal aid sector has been a long-standing source of concern following swingeing cuts made by successive Governments and as a consequence of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO). Evidence shows that there are fewer lawyers entering the field and increasing numbers of firms forced to either take on private work to remain commercially viable or leave the sector entirely.

This picture has been made even more precarious by the pandemic and consequent months of lockdown, remote hearings, reduction in workflow and inevitable loss of income that practitioners have experienced across the civil and criminal legal aid world. It is also anticipated that there will be a large increase in demand when the moratorium on evictions is lifted and the courts fully open and try to tackle the backlog of cases. Consequently, there is a real imperative to assess the current capability of the legal aid system and how this will look in the future so that all members of society are able to access justice, no matter what their circumstances.

The Inquiry will consider the impact of recent policy and the COVID-19 pandemic as follows:

(i) holding six oral evidence sessions (from October 2020 - March 2021) on:

  • Criminal Legal Aid,
  • Family Legal Aid,
  • Civil (Non-Family) Legal Aid,
  • Experiences of the Bar,
  • Access to Justice and
  • Future of the Legal Aid Workforce.

(ii) carrying out an in-depth workforce survey to establish a comprehensive picture of how many organisations and practitioners are currently working in legal aid, their ability to enter and remain in the profession, their capacity to respond to client need, and in doing so to forecast how many legal aid firms and NfP organisations will still be practicing in this area in the years ahead.

The Westminster Commission on Legal Aid will be chaired by Karen Buck MP with James Daly MP as Vice-Chair. Joining Ms Buck as Commissioners are Baroness Helena Kennedy, Baroness Natalie Bennett, Lord Willy Bach, Lord Colin Low, Andy Slaughter MP, Yvonne Fovargue MP, Daisy Cooper MP, and Gareth Bacon MP.

Join us TOMORROW and remember to use #WeAreLegalAid while tweeting about the inquiry.

Thank you for registering your interest. Please note that the Zoom link will be emailed to you the night before the event.

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