Children’s privacy must be protected, but the impact of legal aid cuts strengthens the case for openness in court

Cuts to the legal aid budget since 2010, coupled with the impact of other spending cuts on low-income and vulnerable people, mean that increasing numbers of people are arriving in court in difficult personal circumstances, having received no legal advice and with no lawyer to represent them. The number of people accessing legal aid fell by 82% between 2010 and 2018. While lawyers, charities and others have repeatedly complained about the impact of legal aid cuts in both civil and criminal courts, and criminal barristers last year threatened to strike, the government has so far declined to reverse the funding decisions taken in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

Last week ministers completed a long-awaited review of the Legal aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (Laspo), and announced it will spend an additional £6.5m on restoring help in a few areas from where it was removed. Given the extent of the cuts – £950m has been sliced from the total budget since 2010, with the amount falling from £2.5bn to £1.6bn in real terms – critics were unimpressed. While the extra money can be expected to ease the situation for a small minority of litigants, for the majority nothing will change.

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