Justice Minister Chris Grayling humiliated by MPs’ findings
Justice Minister Chris Grayling was once again left humiliated today after a group of MPs published a report on the failure of legal aid cuts to save taxpayers’ money.
Less than a day after High Court judge Mr Justice Mostyn blamed the government for creating “unjust decisions” in British courts, the justice committee has also come out to denounce the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).
Mr Justice Mostyn made the damning remarks during the ruling of a case at the family division of the High Court.
He said the “blithe assumption” in the government’s consultation paper that most individuals could represent themselves in court was “unfounded.”
Justice Mostyn went on to say that “the phenomenon of the massive increase in self-representation will give rise to the serious risk of the court reaching incorrect, and therefore unjust, decisions.”
According to the justice committee, since the introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Laspo) additional funds have been allocated only after a crisis has developed.
Committee chair Alan Beith said the reform had “limited access to justice for some of those who need legal aid the most and in some instances has failed to prevent cases becoming more serious and creating further claims on the legal aid budget.”
The Lib Dem former deputy leader added: “Many of the problems which we have identified could have been avoided with better research, a better evidence base to work from, and better public information about the reforms.”
The committee also ruled that insufficient attention had been given to access to justice in the new legal aid award process.
Commenting on the committee’s report, Garden Court Chambers barrister Sam Parham said it showed that “the government’s hatchet job on legal aid has been a disaster in every respect.”
“Failing to secure value for money for the taxpayer shows that this government has not even achieved what it purportedly set out to do,” added Mr Parham.
“The Tories have used austerity as a convenient cloak to cover up their ideological attacks on the welfare state, of which legal aid is a central pillar.
“Access to justice should be seen as a basic human right such as the right to education, healthcare and housing rather than being removed at the whim of the current Minister for Justice, Chris Grayling.”