STUDENT therefore making it harder for people to

STUDENT ID:1702132

 

 

                               DOES LEGAL
AID OFFER JUSTICE FOR ALL?

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Thinking
of a society without legal aid today is a bit worrying since legal aid is a way
by which the government helps all individuals in the country to have access to their
right to a fair trial.

However,
this piece is going to be an argumentative essay on the topic, “does legal aid
offer justice for all?”

For
the sake of understanding, I would define legal aid as a “ministry of justice
funded scheme which pays for a solicitor to represent an individual or a group
of people in a case. Therefore, if one is accused of a serious crime, that
person will qualify to have access to criminal legal aid”1
and if another person is in a dispute over property or family related problems
like abuse and cannot afford to pay for practical help with such legal matters,
that person also qualifies to have civil legal aid. This whole concept falls
under the sections 1 and 12 of the “Access to Justice Act 1999”.2
With this, I stand for the motion that, legal aid does indeed offer justice for
all. The rest of the essay is going to explain some points on both the civil
and criminal legal aid which are going to serve as buttress roots for my stand
and also talk about a few points the opposition are likely to use against my
stand.

 

First
and foremost, I would like to acknowledge the fact that because many of “the
rates paid to legal aid solicitors have not changed in about 20 years, it
stands the danger of being unsustainable for the trained solicitors who do the
work and therefore making it harder for people to who desperately need it. But
at the moment, it is doing its job which is to help people protect their rights
and get a fair hearing”.3

 

The
opposition are likely to argue that, since it is a free service, it might not
be carried with much passion and the end result may be that, justice will not
be served as it should. But the issue at hand is not about the effectiveness
but rather the policy and the need for legal aid. I would also like to
acknowledge the fact that it is a challenge but since it is a service rendered
by the government or private institutions, it is treated as service to the
nation since it being paid for by the government through the taxes paid the
citizens.

 

Also,
if there was no such thing as legal aid, justice will only be available to only
the well-to-do leaving the poor out which is not fair. This is because, leaving
the poor people without justice because they cannot afford legal representation
“undermines the right to a fair trial which is a right that is protected under
Article 6 of the Human Rights Act”.4,5

 

Again,
people who oppose my stand might argue that, good and well reputable lawyers
are found in huge law firms and these lawyers always claim a huge sum of money
from their client to represent them and most of the time, things go their way
because of how experienced they are. But on the hand of the legal aid, the
barristers and solicitors there are not very reputable and are paid by the
government, sums of money which are not enough for them even now that the
government has reduced the amount of money that goes into the area of legal
aid. Thus, the legal aid concept is either a hit or miss of which in most cases
it is a miss to those who are eligible to access it.

 

To
counter that, I would say that, justice is well served when there is a fair
trial and hearing and not just that, but when equal opportunity is given to
both sides. It is not necessarily about winning the case or losing it but
rather how the case was won or lost. Moreover, “access to justice does not mean
access to a good lawyer but rather, it is about being able to enforce legitimately
held legal rights”.6

 

However,
it will interest us to know that, “more than 300 barristers have agreed to
offer their services to the public by means of a scheme launched by the bar
free of charge”. 7
which means there are a lot of good lawyers out there have taken the interest
of the public into consideration and have willingly decided to offer their time
to the poor people in the country who need it. This is done as service to the
nation.

 

In the area of civil matters,
justice has always been served well, thanks to legal aid. However, it is in the
area of family law that legal aid seems proves its utility the most, especially
when it comes to biological parents of adopted children wanting to trace the
whereabouts of their children or try to have custody of their children but
cannot do so because they do not have enough money to combat that situation.
Legal aid always comes to the rescue in such cases, just as it was done in the “C (Adoption Application: Legal Aid)”8
case.

Not only does legal
aid offer justice to everyone, it also gives the people who are poor the peace
and comfort that they deserve with regards to legal matters since the legal aid
is always there to help them with all kinds of legal issues.

 

Also, in the area of
criminal offenses, legal aid also proves it utility with regards to the serving
of justice when it is needed. “It may appear in this case that legal aid could
be classified a human right because, we have an understanding as to what such
concepts could be. This is because, article 6 of the European Convention on
Human Rights clearly states that, everyone charged with a criminal offence has
some minimum rights to protect them which are; to defend themselves in person
or through a legal assistance of their own choice or if they do not have
sufficient funds to pay for legal assistance, they can have it for free when
the interest of justice so requires”.9
Dicey’s first principle of the rule of law is applied in this case since the principle
states that, “no man is punishable for a distinct breach of law established in
the ordinary  legal manner before
ordinary legal courts of the land.”10

 

However, it would appear at first sight that, “there
is no right to legal aid for civil law actions. In the Steel and “Morris v
United Kingdom case”11,
the European court of Human Rights suggested that the rights could be based
under Article 6 (1) of the European Convention on Human rights, which is the
right to a fair trial”.12
As we all know, when there is a fair trial, justice is well served

 

To conclude, I still stand for the motion that
legal aid as a concept indeed offers justice to all individuals because, it
provides the poorer citizens of the country with a cheap, quick, authoritative
and transparent means of making them equals with the well-to-do before the law.
This is clearly in line with Dicey’s second principle of the rule of law which
is about equality. It states that “everyman irrespective of his rank or
condition is subject to the ordinary law of the realm and amendable to the
jurisdiction of the ordinary tribunals.”13

 

 

1 John Antell, ‘The pros and cons of conditional fees
and other ways of funding legal fees’ (Johnantell.co.uk, November 2017 ),,accessed 20 January 2018

2
Access to Justice Act 1999

3 No author, ‘How can legal aid help’ (Youtube.com, 5 April 2016), , accessed 21 January 2018

 

4 No author , ‘Legal Aid’ (Liberty-human-rightsorguk,), accessed 20 January 2018

5 Human Rights
Act 1998

6 Jon Robins, ‘Quality of legal aid is as important as
access to a lawyer’ (The guardian.com, 17 September 2010)  accessed 21 January 2018

7 Charles Wild and
Stuart Weinstein , Smith and
Keenan’s English Law (17th edn, Pearson 2013) pg 145

·       8 C (Adoption Application: Legal Aid) 1985 FLR 441n, 1985 Fam Law 197n

 

9 Alisdair Gillespie, The English Legal System (2nd edn, Oxford
University Press 2009) pg 308

 

10 Paul Craig, ‘The Rule Of Law’ (Www.parliament.uk), , accessed 25 January 2018

 

11 Steel
and Morris v United Kingdom (2005) 41 EHRR

 

12 Alisdair Gillespie, The English Legal System (2nd edn, Oxford
University Press 2009) pg 308

 

13 Paul Craig, ‘The Rule of Law’ (Www.parliament.uk),

, accessed 25 January 2018