5 March 2013
Last updated at 04:08
The president of the UK Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger, has said he fears cuts to legal aid could undermine the rule of law.
From April, reforms removing public funding from legal aid in whole areas of civil law are to be introduced.
This means many people will have to pay privately for advice, find charitable help or represent themselves in trying to solve their disputes.
Lord Neuberger said its consequences could in fact cost the government more.
Funding for a wide range of disputes, including some divorce cases and clinical negligence, is to be axed.
The proposals are intended to cut the legal aid bill by £350m a year by 2015.
Lord Neuberger told the BBC: “My worry is the removal of legal aid for people to get advice about law and get representation in court will start to undermine the rule of law because people will feel like the government isn’t giving them access to justice in all sorts of cases.
“And that will either lead to frustration and lack of confidence in the system, or it will lead to people taking the law into their own hands.”
Lord Neuberger said another problem would be the increase in the number of people who represent themselves in court because they could not afford or get legal aid for a lawyer,
“This will mean that court hearings will last longer, the burden on court staff and judges will increase,” he said.
“And you may find the savings the government thinks it’s making in legal aid will be off set in other costs of courts and judges and court staff in supporting litigants in person.”
In a statement the Ministry of Justice said: “Legal aid will continue to be provided to those who most need it, such as where domestic violence is involved, where people’s life or liberty is at stake or the loss of their home.”
Lord Neuberger, UK’s most senior judge, voices legal aid fears – BBC News
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