Crowdfunding could be confused with the Big Society in action.
Nature abhors a vacuum and in the space left vacant by public funding a few things are growing – one of which is crowdfunding.
Observers will have noticed an increase in eye-catching cases. Last week Bindmans met a preliminary target to challenge the ban on assisted dying in the High Court on behalf of two families. Human rights charity the AIRE Centre is looking for funds to protect it from an adverse costs order as it seeks judicial review of the controversial Operation Nexus. And high-profile crime and extradition lawyer Karen Todner is relying on crowdfunding to pursue jailed ex-Libor trader Tom Hayes’ last appeal option – a reference from the Criminal Cases Review Commission.
Sceptics argue that ‘token’ cases like these entrench public funding cuts by giving the impression that the Big Society has stepped in. But for cases that can secure backing, it is a spectacularly big ask to suggest they ‘take one for the team’ and miss an opportunity to access justice. Besides, public opinion on legal aid cuts is hardly so nuanced that such gestures would resonate.
Done earlier, perhaps, crowdfunding campaigns might have made cuts harder to make – engaging the wider public directly in conversations about justice, the law and the relevance of both to people’s lives. As it is, and in the absence of credible alternatives, they are sure to proliferate.