Legal aid is a must

Suggested wording:

Legal aid shall be available to all persons who do not have the resources to fund their own representation in all cases, either civil or criminal.

Original idea:

The Constitution should outline that legal aid is a requirement for a functioning legal system and stipulate that there should always be a legal aid system that is somewhat protected from budget cuts. 

It can't be too prescriptive, as it needs to be able to adapt to future circumstances, but it should certainly outline the necessity of such a provision.

edited on Apr 15, 2015 by Emma McNulty

Emma McNulty Apr 15, 2015

In the previous phase there was disagreement over whether aid should be extended to both civil and criminal cases or only criminal. Could people please comment their views on this question and it can be considered a vote on the matter?

John Z Apr 15, 2015

I feel that it should be limited to criminal defense in which a person cannot afford their own defense attorney.  The possibility of sending someone to prison without a proper defense is unjust;  the same does not apply to civil matters.  That being said, lawyers can voluntarily choose to provide pro bono services to the indigent. 

Ian Smith Apr 15, 2015

This would be a return to the legal aid UK of 20 years ago.  Not saying that's bad.

I've posted an idea about Judiciary led access to justice which compliments this.

Kind regards,


ann smith Apr 15, 2015

i think legal aid should be offered to everyone who cant afford it any other way no matter what the case is.if we cant bring it back than the lawyers should volunteer their time or just set up a law firm that just takes on cases that are free like legal aid than people can go there and they dont have to worry that they cant afford a lawyer like in america and many other places around the world or better still why dont people give what they can afford like give in weekly installments agree a price like £ 50 at the begining of the case then pay installments untill that £50 is paid off no matter how long it takes to pay off or agree to the length of time to pay off say two months

Bob Stammers Apr 16, 2015

The need for legal aid in criminal matters should be obvious as John from Jersey points out. The case for legal aid in civil matters is not so clear cut but without it a well-funded claimant would have a major advantage over an impoverished defendant and vice versa.

Many civil matters are "for profit" but others such as ordinary family matters are not, they just need legal help.

The concept of justice requires that money should not be the deciding issue so legal aid should be available, in principle for all cases, but at a judge's discretion.

Scott Wilson Apr 16, 2015

The fundamental problem with legal aid for civil matters is that the scenario of civil action against someone impoverished is more often than not simply hypothetical.  A lawsuit against someone who can't pay damages is futile.  

The point in criminal cases is that they involve a risk of your fundamental freedoms being severely curtailed, and your future life opportunities being restricted because of it. Civil cases are simply about money, by and large.   For the situations which sit outside it (family courts), then there may be a special case when one is a respondent, and unable to fund representation, but my preference is to leave this to the legal profession to provide pro-bono, on the basis that a case shouldn't be able to proceed without a respondent having such advice/representation.

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BananaPlant Apr 16, 2015

Does non uk citizen have this right as well?

Rob G Apr 16, 2015

It's more associated with UK residents than citizens - after all, it's residents who are the tax-payers who'll be funding it...

ann smith Apr 16, 2015

in some cases you have to pay for that advice/represention before they take up your case in the first place,than they can decide if its worth to take the case on or not.what if you are the one who wants to take someone to court and you cant afford to do that, that when you need legal aid and not all cases like civil cases are about some criminal cases yes your fundamental freedom is curtailed but thats if you done something really really take out a law suit against someone who cant pay then that lawyer didnt do their job right because if they did than they would have found that out before it gets to court and not waste their time and courts time.

Scott Wilson Apr 16, 2015

The difficulty with legal aid for plaintiffs in civil cases is it will fuel a floodgate of demand for lawsuits by people who might otherwise have not done it, and who can't get a lawyer to chase a "no win no fee" case.  Subsidising the initiation of civil cases will effectively subsidise a litigious culture that will primarily benefit the legal profession.  We should all remember that legal aid is a subsidy for lawyers, it should only exist in order to protect people facing legal action from others.  If lawyers want to support initiating action, they can pursue "no win no fee" cases on their merit, if they wont, then it suggests legal aid would direct resources into primarily futile lawsuits, which only benefits the subsidised lawyers.

At a constitutional level, this is an argument about public policy that is appropriate for the political arena, but it is not about fundamental rights.

Rob G Apr 16, 2015

There's always been a "merits test" for legal aid, right back to when it was introduce in the 1940s. In criminal cases, it's extremely easy to meet that test, for civil cases, you have to demonstrate that there's at least a reasonable prospect of success. I think that's entirely appropriate, and I think it should be included in the final statement.