Law in Action - Legal aid changes: long overdue reform or denial of justice?
As the legal aid bill continues its rocky ride through Parliament, Joshua Rozenberg assesses the impact of the proposed changes to the civil justice system in England and Wales.
"The single biggest attack on access to justice since the legal aid system was introduced". That's the view of the Law Society on the government's controversial proposals to reform the civil justice system in England and Wales. But the government argue that the legal aid system has become unaffordable and along with no win no fee has helped create a litigious society. They say the current system is a boon for lawyers, while draining resources from organisations like the NHS and leaving many small businesses in fear of legal action. The Government are planning to scrap legal aid in some areas and make fundamental changes to no-win no fee. The aim is to bring down costs and encourage alternatives to going to court. But the bill to introduce these changes has been having a rocky ride in Parliament and there is widespread opposition to the reforms. Advice centres, lawyers and even some from the government's own benches say the changes will deny justice for vulnerable people, and will ultimately end up costing the government more money. In the first programme of a new series of Law in Action, Joshua Rozenberg examines the arguments and the likely impact of the contentious changes. Producer: Wesley Stephenson.