Recently Lord Pannick said in a debate in the House of Lords: ‘There are countries where the Government win all their cases in court – but they are not places in which any of us would wish to live.’ Well, buckle up people, because the legal aid bill before parliament is a last call to all passengers on a one-way ticket to just such a country.
This is an extract from an excellent article describing how the legal aid cuts will effectively remove access to justice from the vast majority of people. If you read nothing else, please read Justice Gap - Jules Carey - "What price liberty? Too much for legal aid."
The organisation Liberty have said that ‘if the bill is passed without substantial amendment, big business, government and other members of a rich and powerful elite will be able to act with impunity’. How true this will be. The government claims
that a £350m p.a. cut to the £2bn legal aid budget is necessary for economic reasons. The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill will cut legal aid extremely deeply and "Rights" without access to justice (i.e. the means to enforce those rights) are not rights at all. The coalition government has, in reality, mounted a massive attack on the liberties of the people under the umbrella of the economic crisis.
The Pink Tape blog looks at whether Judicial Training will ameliorate the problems caused by a surge in litigants-in-person. The answer is not encouraging and such litigants - usually ordinary people fighting for their rights - will often be facing the power of government with a bottomless purse and no restrictions on the lawyers they can hire to fight their corner. Litigants in person are at an enormous disadvantage. The law is difficult and it is, as Chief Justice Coke said many years ago in words aimed at King James I:
” … an art which requires long study and experience, before that a man can attain to the cognizance of it; …” Case of Prohibitions del Roy  EWHC J23 (KB); 77ER 1342; 12 Co rep 63.
It is utterly wrong to expect the ordinary citizen to represent themselves before courts and tribunals with their complex law and procedural rules. "Rights" without access to justice cannot be properly described as rights at all.
Addendum 1st November: See the short item in The Guardian - No win, no fee. Our only route to justice. and also "Milly Dowler parents join Yeates's landlord to oppose legal aid cuts." The Law Society Gazette 13th October 2011 highlighted the rise in numbers of litigants in person and the problems some of them face.