Access Denied: Bar Council Welcomes LASPO Concessions as Report Calls for Further Reform
2 March 2012
As Peers prepare for the start of the Report Stage of the Legal
Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill next Monday, the
Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, has
welcomed the limited concessions announced yesterday, whilst
calling on the Government to take heed of the overwhelming evidence
and weight of opinion against many of its reforms.
The Bar Council today publishes a report entitled "Access Denied", which
summarises the wealth of research and expert commentary, including
from Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs and Peers, against many
of the Bill's provisions. The report focuses on the areas in which
the threat posed to access to justice has promoted the most fervent
• The removal of clinical negligence from the scope of legal
• The Bill's failure to provide sufficient support for victims of
domestic violence, and
• The short-sighted removal of legal aid from many areas of welfare
Michael Todd QC, Chairman of the Bar Council,
"The Government yesterday announced limited concessions to
address some of the criticisms directed at the Legal Aid,
Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill. It has amended the
Bill's definition of domestic abuse in line with arguments pursued
by the Bar Council and others. It has also made legal aid available
for a limited number of clinical negligence claimants, in cases
involving serious pre- or perinatal brain damage.
"While welcome, these amendments go only a very small way
towards silencing the Bill's countless critics. The Bar Council's
report demonstrates the very well-informed and strong tide of
opinion against many of the Government's cuts to legal aid and its
reforms to civil litigation. Opposition has been voiced by leading
members of the judiciary, experienced lawyers and many non-legal
Parliamentarians who understand and are well placed to assess how
these reforms will impact upon the most vulnerable members of
"A number of expert analyses have revealed that many of these
reforms will actually end up costing the Government more, not less.
These are not intelligent cuts. Early legal advice prevents large
sums being spent on more complex proceedings further down the line.
Legal aid is the most cost-efficient way of funding expert reports
for clinical negligence cases. Protecting victims of domestic
violence through the courts can save lives.
"Many Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs and Peers have
abandoned party allegiances to propose and support significant
amendments to this damaging piece of legislation. As the Bill nears
its Report Stage in the House of Lords, unless the Government
brings forward many more major amendments, it faces the prospect of
serious rebellion within its ranks."
Notes to editors
1. Read "Access Denied - The Legal Aid,
Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill: the case for
2. Read the Bar
Council's briefing for Peers for the Report Stage of the
3. For further information, please contact the Bar Council Press
Office on 020 7222 2525.
4. The Bar Council represents barristers in England and Wales.
• The Bar's high quality specialist advocacy and advisory
• Fair access to justice for all
• The highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across
the profession, and
• The development of business opportunities for barristers at home
The General Council of the Bar is the Approved Regulator of the
Bar of England and Wales. It discharges its regulatory functions
through the independent Bar Standards Board.