What does the election mean for legal aid?

Should solicitors and the public expect more legal aid cuts in the near future?

Legal Aid reform was first introduced by the coalition government, due to the scheme costing over £2 billion a year. Legal aid reform was introduced to reduce wasteful spending and to ensure that legal aid goes to the people that need it most.

What can you expect from the next government elected to power?

The term ‘austerity’ has been overly used during the election cycle, and you can expect to see this word bounded around for some time to come yet, especially in the realm of legal aid.

The new justice secretary, Michael Gove, is likely to outline his plans for further cuts to legal aid. Its unknown how ruthless he will be, however with news surfacing about the Human Rights Act, and Michael Gove willingness to scrap the policy, the worst can be expected.

Why has so little attention been paid to legal aid reform?

The general public seem to know very few details about legal aid and its struggle for survival over the past two years. However in recent months the media has begun to join the bandwagon, with newspapers dedicating columns to the issue and even a BBC panorama special.

Is the real issue the perceived image of  legal professionals?   

Solicitors rarely get positive press in the media or even in Hollywood. For example, Jim Carrey's hit film, ‘Liar Liar’, Jim Carrey plays a lawyer that lies so much, that his character doesn't even realise he's doing it.  

Recently the Independent broke a story about solicitors using their legal standing to sue members of the public, only if they wrote a bad review about their practice, claiming ‘defamation’. Even the hit TV drama Broadchurch portrays the legal system in a negative light.

Therefore, It's no wonder that the general public don't trust solicitors, due to their negative portrayal via various media outlets.

This general perception from the public could be proving detrimental to the severity of cuts in legal aid, not understanding that legal aid cuts affects them more than the solicitor.

A new drama highlighting the impact of legal aid cuts is due to open at the Bush Theatre in London later this year, in an effort to present the facts in a more approachable format, to the general public. This publicity may make a minor impact on how the public view legal aid cuts, however the damage has already been done, and is set to worsen.

Have you experienced any unwarranted negativity from the public that may of been due to a false perception?

What do you think can be done to correct this false identity?

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.  

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