updated on 22 November 2019
Political parties have announced their policies on legal aid and the justice system as the general election ramps up ahead of polling day on Thursday 12 December.
The Labour Party, sticking to earlier pledges, has promised to restore legal aid for early advice in housing, family, social security and immigration cases. Labour also reaffirmed its commitment to halt court closures and said that the country’s network of law centres will be expanded under a Labour government.
As the Law Gazette reports, Labour also said that it would defend the right of workers to recover legal representation costs from negligent employers. In addition, the Domestic Abuse Bill would be reintroduced.
The Conservatives have promised a tough approach to crime and a focus on “law and order”, including a “root and branch” review of the release system for prisoners and an increase to the financial penalties imposed on convicted offenders. The party also promised to double the Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Fund to increase resources for rape shelters and victims’ services.
The Tories have also reaffirmed plans to introduce a new ‘victims’ law’ enabling victims of crime to challenge the police and other agencies over their conduct.
The Liberal Democrats have said they will inject an extra £500 million into legal aid, increasing the current legal aid budget by a third. The party has also promised to take measures to increase the diversity of the judiciary, police and prison service.
Meanwhile, the Law Society has called on all political parties to make access to justice and the rule of law a priority if they enter government. Law Society president Simon Davis said: “This election is a pivotal moment for the country and not just because of Brexit. Successive governments have stripped back provision of legal aid and left our justice system in a dangerously under-funded state.
“Our legal system has long been seen as the global benchmark and our members fight the corner of some of the most vulnerable in society, including those struggling with mental health issues or personal hardship.
“But there is a crisis, and there are things that urgently need fixing in our justice system. The party that wins this election needs to focus on this or we will lose something fundamental.”