I have today laid before Parliament, and shared with the Chair of the Justice Select Committee, the Government’s post-legislative memorandum for the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) 2012, introduced by the coalition Government. This fulfils the commitment made by former Justice Minister Sir Oliver Heald before this House earlier this year.
My predecessors also committed to publish a post-implementation review of the legal aid changes made by the Act during its passage through Parliament. I have asked my officials to commence this review.
Our legal aid system is a fundamental pillar of access to justice, accounting for more than a fifth of the Ministry of Justice’s budget. The reforms within the Act were founded on delivering better value for money for taxpayers by reducing the cost of the scheme and discouraging unnecessary and adversarial litigation, while ensuring that legal aid continues to be available for the highest priority cases, for example where life or liberty is at stake, where someone faces the loss of their home, in domestic violence cases, or where their children may be taken into care.
The Government have previously committed to review a number of areas, including:
the changes made to the scope of legal aid for family, civil and criminal cases, and the introduction of the Exceptional Case Funding scheme;
the changes made to fees for various types of legal aid work;
the procedural changes the Act made, including the introduction of the mandatory telephone gateway and the introduction of evidence requirements for victims of domestic violence and child abuse;
changes to the rules on financial eligibility, including the application of the capital eligibility test to all legal aid applicants, increasing income contributions for those eligible to contribute, and capping the subject matter of dispute disregard;
changes to the application of the merits test;
the abolition of the Legal Services Commission and its replacement with the Legal Aid Agency.
This review of part 1 of the Act will be led by officials in my Department. I am keen that we listen to views on these changes from all interested parties, and I will shortly be inviting individuals and organisations to join consultative panels and contribute to this review work.
The review will conclude before the start of the summer recess 2018.
My predecessors also committed to a post-implementation review of the civil litigation funding and costs reforms in part 2 of the Act. We are considering how to carry out that review, but we hope to conclude it to the same timetable.