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Submission to the UK Parliament on the Future of Legal Aid

Jennifer Blair

The scope of this response is discreet and relates to HBF’s experience of:

  • clients who are represented by legal aid representatives in respect of their asylum and/or trafficking claim under an immigration contract;
  • access to justice following implementation of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (“LASPO”), including the availability of legal aid, quality of legal representation and access to early legal advice;
  • the impact of Covid-19; and
  • anticipated challenges over the next decade and recommendations.

Whilst much of our response to this consultation relates to our experience at HBF, we refer the reader to the report of Dr Wilding, Droughts and Deserts: A report on the immigration legal aid market, which assesses the supply and demand of legal aid, following the implementation of LASPO which has resulted in the exponential increase of advice deserts and droughts in large areas of England and Wales. Increasing numbers of advice deserts and droughts compounds issues of capacity and overwhelm for those remaining within the immigration sector. Coupled with the very real reduction in legal aid fees and lawyers leaving the profession in their droves, it is unsurprising that LASPO’s implementation has adversely affected clients’ access to justice and the quality of representation. We note that these issues are not exclusive to immigration law, indeed the Bach Commission found that LASPO has ‘seriously damaged the functioning of the justice system, especially for those most in need’.