Corbyn: 'Legal aid is a basic human right' - The Justice Gap
by Oliver Carter, January 8, 2016
Jeremy Corbyn was the headline act at the packed Voices for Justice rally organised by the Justice Alliance this week in support of legal aid, with the group calling on the government to ‘scrap two-tier justice’. The Labour leader was greeted with a standing ovation as he walked onto the stage at Conway Hall in London. The rally ended in a similar fashion, with rapturous applause after Corbyn’s speech in defence of the principle of access to justice.
The Labour leader’s popularity with access to justice campaigners reflects a longstanding commitment to legal aid, an impression enhanced by his decision in the first days of his leadership to ask shadow justice minister Lord Willy Bach to carry out a comprehensive review of legal aid for the party. Bach is in the process of appointing a commission of experts to assist in the task, which will ‘focus on access to justice as public entitlement and rethinking our justice system for the 21st century’.
Corbyn pledged that his party ‘will support and defend the principle of legal aid’, deplored the ‘denial of justice’ and ‘serious miscarriages of justice taking place every day’ because of ‘brutal’ cuts to legal aid by the coalition government. After recapping the damage that has been done by a 25% reduction in the legal aid budget, including the number of social welfare cases funded by legal aid falling from 470,000 in 2010 to just 53,000 after the implementation of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 leading to ‘hundreds of thousands of people going without the help they need’, Corbyn described legal aid as a ‘basic human right’.