About Justice Week
Justice Week 2020 runs from Monday 24th to Friday 28th February. The aim of Justice week 2020 is to improve access to justice by boosting the profile of justice and the rule of law, placing them at the centre stage of public and political debate.
Justice and the rule of law are facing major threat, from cuts to spending to attacks on the judiciary, all of which undermines our democracy.
Why is there an Access to Justice problem?
The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) was introduced to ‘tackle’ the increasing pressure on the Legal Aid budget and was directly in response to the banking crisis that prompted radical cost-saving initiatives to reduce the national deficit. Legal aid was scrapped from areas of law including family, employment, clinical negligence, welfare, housing and debt. The act also lowered the means test and stopped automatic eligibility for those in receipt of means-tested benefits.
Legal Aid has always been regarded as central in providing access to justice by ensuring equality before the law (in 2019 Legal Aid celebrated its 70th anniversary). However, since LASPO, spending on Legal Aid has reduced dramatically. In 2010, the annual spending on Legal Aid was £2.2bn. The government hoped that the Act would reduce legal aid spending by £350m per year however, figures published by the Government in 2017/18 revealed that they have exceeded their target, and the annual spend was £1.6bn – £950m lower in real terms than it was in 2010.
For the government it has therefore, financially, been a huge success, but it is widely accepted amongst political and legal commentators that the impact on society, the court system and justice has been ruinous. The people solicitors turn away reappear in other public services, shifting the burden of cost onto the courts, NHS and social care.
The Impact of LASPO
Public Legal Education
Public Legal Education (PLE) is one area that has the potential to increase access to justice. Many people do not know their rights and have difficulties accessing legal services because they can’t afford to pay.
The benefits of PLE are that it will help the public to:
Law firms are encouraged by their governing body (the Law Society) to build PLE into their pro-bono and CSR (corporate social responsibility) strategy. Examples of PLE initiatives include:
PLE and SHU Law
At SHU Law, we regularly post information on our website that is aimed at informing people of their rights in relation to a variety of legal topics. We also share these articles via our social media channels, with a view to reaching as many people as possible. Topics include commonly asked questions in relation to the employment rights of individuals; compensation for sexual abuse survivors; an employer’s duty of care towards those suffering mental health problems; what to expect at an Inquest; navigating the small claims process and terminating a commercial contract.
On the 26th February, to mark Justice Week 2020, we are hosting an Employment Law Interactive Seminar that aims to answer key questions asked by those entering the world of work. This is open to members of the public as well as students.