01 July 2011

Cuts must not deny justice to the poor

Colchester Campus

Professor Ellie Palmer

In the wake of one of Britain’s most senior judges delivering a damning verdict on Government plans to cut spending on legal aid, top justice experts and practitioners will discuss access to legal services in an age of austerity at a seminar organised by the University of Essex.

Baroness Hale of Richmond, an Honorary Graduate of the University, publicly criticised Government proposals which would see legal aid withdrawn in many cases including those concerning family breakdown, medical negligence and housing and education issues.

Giving the 2011 Sir Henry Hodge Memorial Lecture at the Law Society, Baroness Hale said: “People need the right advice and they need it early…The idea that the law in some of these areas is simple and easy to understand is laughable. These plans will of course have a disproportionate effect upon the poorest and most vulnerable in society.”

The seminar on 14 July is the second in a series of four events organised by the University’s School of Law but held at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies in London. It will explore the implications of the coalition’s sweeping reforms and the impact on families in debt, children and other vulnerable groups.

Guests will hear from Richard Miller, Head of Legal Aid at the Law Society and Theresa Perchard, Director of Policy at the Citizens Advice Bureau.

The aim of the seminars is to address growing concerns among legal professions, academics, pressure groups and charities about the provision of legal services, especially those available to socially disadvantaged individuals and groups.

Professor Ellie Palmer of the School of Law, who has co-organised the seminars with her colleague Tom Cornford, said: “The Government is proposing significant cuts to the justice system and we must ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable members of society do not lose out. The only way to do this is to encourage greater dialogue between the academic legal and socio-legal communities, and between government policymakers and legal practitioners which is the aim of these seminars.”

It is hoped the seminars will result in more meaningful evidence-based research on which to make recommendations to the Government.

There will be two further seminars later in the year. Professor Palmer and colleagues won funding for the project through the Economic and Social Research Council’s prestigious Seminar Series Competition.

Ends

Notes to editors

1. For further information see: www.essex.ac.uk/atj alternatively contact the University of Essex Communications Office, telephone: 01206 873529 or e-mail: comms@essex.ac.uk.

2. Baroness Hale of Richmond made her comments delivering the 2011 Sir Henry Hodge Memorial Lecture at the Law Society. Her lecture, entitled ‘Equal Access to Justice in the Big Society’ referred to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill which passed its second reading in the House of Commons on 29 June 2011. Her lecture is available in full at: http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/new/documents/2011/equal-access-justice-11.pdf

3. Lady Hale received an Honorary Degree from the University of Essex in July 2005.

4. In November 2009 the University of Essex won the Queen’s Anniversary Prize in recognition of its pioneering role in advancing the legal and broader practice of international human rights.

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