New analysis from the Law Society of England and Wales Properly shows funding early legal advice saves taxpayers’ money. Research estimates the cost of running a single courtroom for a day is £2,692, not including legal advice. Law Society president, Christina Blacklaws says: ‘The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) removed a significant chunk of legal aid for early legal advice so cases that would once have been resolved long before court proceedings are now clogging the system.’
More cases ending up in court
She explained: 'There is growing evidence that providing legal aid for early legal help in housing and family matters is far more cost-effective than denying it. More cases are ending up in court because people are unable to get legal advice on the merits of their case at an early stage and are forced to represent themselves., Ms Blacklaws said the Law Society had warned of this consequence when LASPO became law, and the evidence to support the criticism is now widely available, adding ‘as we noted in our own LASPO 4 years on report the dramatic increase in the number of litigants in person – people who represent themselves in court – has placed a severe strain on the court system. Litigants in person can struggle to understand court procedures and their legal entitlements, and cases involving them take longer to resolve.’
Call to government
Ms Blacklaws argues that without early advice, relatively minor legal problems can spiral out of control, creating health, social and financial problems, which she says places ‘additional pressure and cost on already stretched public services. The apparent financial savings being made by government in the justice system are a false economy.’ She says the new analysis demonstrates the scale of the savings that could be made by restoring legal aid for early advice, ‘it is in everyone’s best interests that legal problems are resolved early to avoid the greater expense of a court process.’ Ms Blacklaws called on the government, whose long-awaited post-legislative review of LASPO is currently underway, to consider restoring state funding for early legal advice as part of the review.