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27th Jul 2021

Justice committee's call for urgent reform of legal aid welcomed

Justice Lab today welcomed calls by Parliament’s Justice Select Committee for urgent reform of legal aid in order to ensure fairness in the justice system and improve access to justice for those who are vulnerable. The Committee’s report, to which Justice Lab provided written and oral evidence, recommends systemic changes to both the criminal and civil legal aid systems. One area the Committee raised concerns about was the significant rise in recent years of litigants in person and the impact of this increase on court capacity and access to justice. The Committee expressed disappointment with the Ministry of Justice’s approach to gathering data on access to justice and suggested the data it did hold may not adequately capture the impact of litigants in person on courts’ time.

Justice Lab’s Director, Dr Natalie Byrom who authored the Foundation’s 2019 Report, ‘Digital Justice: HMCTS data strategy and delivering access to justice’ said:

The Committee is right to highlight the impact of the rising numbers of litigants in person and to call for greater support. One of the key aims of the HMCTS Court Reform Programme was to improve access to justice. The programme cannot achieve this aim unless new systems collect better data about litigants in person- both to understand their needs and design effective policy to meet them. Better data is also crucial to model the impact of litigants in person on the court system and the backlog. This data is needed urgently to allow the MoJ to make the business case to Treasury for additional funding for legal advice and representation.