Background: Women rely disproportionately on state-funded legal advice services for civil law cases. For instance, 62.2% of applications for civil legal aid are made by women, with higher percentages in areas like education and family law.[i]
- Legal aid will be cut for welfare benefits, education and medical negligence advice and severely reduced for debt, employment, family law, housing and immigration advice
- There will also be changes to eligibility criteria (who will be able to receive legal aid), access to legal aid (how you get legal advice) and how much legal advisors are paid for doing the work
The Impact: These cuts will have a significant impact on advice services and those seeking advice in Coventry which will disproportionately affect women. The changes could lead to negative human rights impacts including:
- Violations of the right to fair trial where there is no legal advice in particularly complex cases.[ii]
- Removal of advice on complex welfare benefits issues, housing issues and immigration issues may also amount to human rights violations under Article 3 of the Human Rights Act.[iii]
- Significant restrictions on the local availability of services effectively creating ‘advice deserts” could lead to no effective remedy for any abuses.[iv]
- Women in violent relationships will be particularly vulnerable to removal of legal aid and current proposals may lead to breaches of their human rights.
Read full chapter on Legal Advice Services in Unravelling Equality here
[i]Rights of Women, ‘Briefing on the Ministry of Justice proposed changes to legal aid’ 2010 accessible via http://www.row.org.uk/pdfs/Policy/Rights_of_Women_briefing_on_Ministry_of_Justice_proposed_changes_to_legal_aid.pdf at p1. Ministry of Justice, Legal Aid Reform: Scope Changes’ November 2010 accessible via http://www.justice.gov.uk/consultations/docs/eia-scope.pdf at p46
[ii] Airey v Ireland 32 Eur Ct HR Ser A (1979):  2 E.H.R.R. 305.
[iii] See case of R (ex parte Adam) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  UKHL 66 Lord Bingham (para 7) “… the threshold [for a breach of Article 3] may be crossed if a late applicant with no means and no alternative sources of support, unable to support himself, is, by deliberate action of the state, denied shelter, food or the most basic necessities of life …” Baroness Hale commented that to have to endure the indefinite prospect of rooflessness and cashlessness in a country where it was not possible to live off the land, was inhuman and degrading (para 78).
[iv] Liberty, ‘Liberty’s response to the Ministry of Justice Proposals for the Reform of Legal Aid’ February 2011 accessible via http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/pdfs/policy11/response-to-ministry-of-justice-consultation-on-legal-aid.pdf at p13