The government responded to a report by a joint committee of MPs and peers on the effect on children of the proposed introduction of a residence test for civil legal aid claimants, so as to limit legal aid to those with a 'strong connection' with the United Kingdom.
Source: Government Response to the Joint Committee on Human Rights – Legal Aid: Children and the residence test, Cm 8936, Ministry of Justice, TSO
The government responded to a report by a committee of peers on the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, in particular on the aspects of the Bill that related to 'leapfrog appeals' to the Supreme Court, and to judicial review.
Source: Government Response to the Second Report of the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution Session 2014/15: Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, Cm 8927, Ministry of Justice, TSO
The children's watchdog for England said that changes to the legal aid system since 2013 were having serious potential effects on a wide range of children's rights. Research conducted to inform the Commissioner's impact analysis showed a reduction in legal representation in private family cases and that the 'exceptional funding' regime, created to ensure that legal aid was still given to people whose human rights were at risk, had been used in significantly fewer cases than anticipated. Two background reports were published alongside the Commissioner's impact assessment.
Source: Legal Aid Changes Since April 2013: Child rights impact assessment, Office of the Children's Commissioner
Source: Joel Carter, The Impact of Legal Aid Changes Since April 2013: Participation work with children and young people, Office of the Children's Commissioner
Source: Helen Powell, Mark Sefton, Marisol Smith, and Amy Randall, The Impact of Legal Aid Changes on Children Since April 2013: Desk-based research, Office of the Children's Commissioner
A report provided an overview of the changes to civil litigation and the provision of civil and family legal aid in England and Wales following The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO), and the effects of the changes during the first year of operation, drawing on a survey of the Bar and semi-structured interviews with barristers, clerks, and representatives from organizations providing frontline services. The report said that some areas of law were now almost entirely excluded from legal aid, including child custody, housing, welfare law, and immigration (except asylum cases), and that there was now a need to determine the impact of LASPO on access to justice, in order to aid the development and implementation of evidence-based policy solutions.
Source: Sarah-Jane Bennett, The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO): One year on – final report, Bar Council
A report provided findings from a research project that had examined the legal assistance systems in place for unaccompanied children in various migration and asylum procedures in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The research had looked at issues related to accessing legal assistance (such as rights to free legal assistance, information provided to unaccompanied children, referral systems, and procedural and practical obstacles in accessing available assistance), and the quality assurance of the assistance provided.
Source: Helene Soupios-David, with Elona Bokshi, Maria Hennessy, and Silvia Cravesana, Right to Justice: Quality legal assistance for unaccompanied children, European Council on Refugees and Exiles
The government began consultation on whether to introduce a new legal mechanism by which a guardian could be appointed to act on behalf and in the best interests of a person who had gone missing, and asked what the process and terms of such an appointment should be. The consultation would close on 18 November 2014.
Source: Guardianship of the Property and Affairs of Missing Persons: A consultation, Ministry of Justice
The government began consultation on proposals to introduce a specific civil law measure, similar to the Forced Marriage Protection Orders model, to help prevent female genital mutilation and to help protect women and girls at risk. The consultation would close on 19 August 2014.
Source: Ministry of Justice
Links: Consultation website
The Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill was given a second reading. The Bill was designed to establish new provisions regarding civil liability for negligence and for certain breaches of a statutory duty, requiring a court to have regard to certain factors such as whether the person was acting for the benefit of society, whether they demonstrated a generally responsible approach towards protecting the safety or other interests of others, or whether event happened as a result of someone 'acting heroically'. The provisions would apply to claims against individuals or organizations (including employers) in England and Wales.
Source: Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill, Ministry of Justice, TSO | Debate 21 July 2014, columns 1187-1214, House of Commons Hansard, TSO
The Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill was published. The Bill was designed to establish new provisions regarding civil liability for negligence and for certain breaches of a statutory duty, requiring a court to have regard to certain factors such as whether the person was acting for the benefit of society, whether they demonstrated a generally responsible approach towards protecting the safety or other interests of others, or whether event happened as a result of someone 'acting heroically'. The provisions would apply to claims against individuals or organizations (including employers) in England and Wales.
Source: Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill, Ministry of Justice, TSO
A report provided findings from a study into the legal process of housing possession in England and Wales, with particular focus on the ability of court users to supply information to the court, and to obtain advice and representation on the day of the possession hearing. It said that there was a lack of 'joined up thinking' within the legal process, such that potentially relevant and important information about the defendant's circumstances might not be known to the judge. The study had found that the rates of participation in the proceedings by defendants were low, but their involvement was likely to lead to a more beneficial outcome. Legal advice and representation was important to outcomes, but the report said that few defendants received legal advice prior to the hearing, and legal aid and voluntary advice service cuts would make this more difficult. The report called for a range of measures to improve outcomes, including for better flows of information between defendants and courts, funding for housing possession schemes to provide legal advice in courts, for better data on defendant attendance and representation levels, and for a central database of court-based legal advice.
Source: Susan Bright and Lisa Whitehouse, Information, Advice and Representation in Housing Possession Cases, University of Oxford/University of Hull
A report by a joint committee of MPs and peers said that although it might be legitimate to restrict access to judicial review proceedings to discourage weak claims, and to reduce costs and delays, changes needed to be proportionate, reasonable, and based upon clear evidence as to their necessity. The committee questioned the evidential basis for the government's proposals, and said that recent judicial review proposals had exposed a conflict in the combined roles of the Lord Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Justice that should now be considered by a number of parliamentary committees. The committee also raised concerns regarding a range of other changes, including procedural defects, legal aid in judicial review cases, interveners and costs, protective costs orders, and the legal enforcement of the public sector equality duty.
Source: The Implications for Access to Justice of the Government's Proposals to Reform Judicial Review, Thirteenth Report (Session 201314), HC 868 and HL 174, Joint Select Committee on Human Rights, TSO
A study examined the role that court fees played in decisions to seek redress through civil and family courts, in the context of other costs and factors that might influence decisions to take a case to court. In particular, it examined: why users decided to use the courts to resolve disputes; what role costs and court fees played in this decision; views on potential increases to court fees; and in what circumstances decisions were price sensitive. The report said that participants in the research tended to feel that they had no alternative but to bring their case to court, and that court fees were not a key factor in their considerations. It said that participants typically felt that court fees were affordable, and that higher fees (as asked about in the study) would not have deterred them from starting court proceedings.
Source: Isabella Pereira, Paul Harvey, William Dawes, and Helen Greevy, The Role of Court Fees in Affecting Users' Decisions to Bring Cases to the Civil and Family Courts: A qualitative study of claimants and applicants, Ministry of Justice
An article examined use of the internet for legal information and advice seeking by those aged over 60. It said that there had been a general increase in use among all age groups over time, albeit with a lower rate of growth among those currently over 60. It discussed the implications for policy-makers in setting priorities for online service provision in England and Wales, given the ageing demographic and planned changes to civil legal aid.
Source: Catrina Denvir, Nigel Balmer, and Pascoe Pleasence, 'Portal or pot hole? Exploring how older people use the "information superhighway" for advice relating to problems with a legal dimension', Ageing and Society, Volume 34 Issue 4
A new book examined access to justice (legal advice and representation). It said that law centres in Britain were struggling to provide legal advice and access to welfare rights to disadvantaged communities, and considered strategies to safeguard services while strengthening the basic ethics and principles of public service provision.
Source: Marjorie Mayo, Gerald Koessl, Matthew Scott, and Imogen Slater, Access to Justice for Disadvantaged Communities, Policy Press
The government responded to the outcome of a consultation on reforms to the system of judicial review. It said that the government had concluded that reform was necessary. Proposed changes (some of which had already been announced in the National Infrastructure strategy and the 2013 autumn statement) included: a specialist planning court within the High Court to deal with judicial reviews and statutory appeals relating to nationally significant infrastructure projects and other planning matters; a lower threshold test for when a defect in procedure would have made no difference to the original outcome; allowing appeals to 'leapfrog' directly to the Supreme Court in a wider range of circumstances; and restrictions in legal aid for judicial review cases, oral permission hearings, Protective Costs Orders, Wasted Costs Orders, interveners' costs and third party funding. Some of the proposals were included in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, and others would be taken forward by means of secondary legislation.
Source: Judicial Review ï¿½ Proposals for Further Reform: The government response, Cm 8811, Ministry of Justice, TSO
The government published its response to a consultation on proposals to change the family legal aid remuneration schemes.
Source: Supporting the Introduction of the Single Family Court ï¿½ Changes to the family legal aid remuneration schemes: Response to consultation, Ministry of Justice
The final report of the Low Commission proposed changes to the provision of advice and legal support in social welfare law cases in England and Wales. The report made six overarching recommendations, including: for more public legal information; for greater action by central and local government to prevent demand; for courts and tribunals to review how they might operate more effectively; for the development of a national strategy for advice and legal support, and a minister within the Ministry of Justice with a cross-departmental remit; for co-production of local advice and support plans between local authorities and voluntary or commercial sector providers; and for additional funding, administered by the Big Lottery Fund, drawing on a range of sources to include a levy on payday lending. The report also recommended that the government should take action to resolve operational problems surrounding the exceptional funding arrangements that were introduced by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act.
Source: Low Commission, Tackling the Advice Deficit: A strategy for access to advice and legal support on social welfare law in England and Wales, Legal Action Group