Labour has stuck to earlier promises to restore legal aid for early advice, halt further court closures and recruit hundreds of community lawyers in its election manifesto, unveiled today.
Over the past year the opposition party has made a series of justice-related pledges. Today it confirmed that a Labour government will restore all early legal aid advice, including for housing, social security, family and immigration cases. Hundreds of community lawyers will be recruited and an expanded network of law centres will be built.
The party says it will defend workers' ability to recover legal representation costs from negligent employers. It will keep the right for workers to be represented and recover their costs in cases of employer negligence leading to injury at work. The eligibility criteria for the criminal injuries compensation scheme will be reviewed.
Labour would halt court closures and staff cuts, and review the courts reform programme. It has also committed to spending £100m over the next five years to maintain the courts estate.
'We will facilitate a more representative judiciary while upholding its independence, and review funding for the Crown Prosecution Service,' it adds.
The 'disproportionate' levels of black, Asian and minority ethnic children in custody would be addressed and Labour would review the youth custody estate, strengthen youth courts and build on the government-commissioned Lammy Review.
Labour pledges to set new standards for tackling domestic abuse and violence, and appoint a commissioner for violence against women and girls. An independent review into 'shamefully low' rape prosecution rates would be commissioned. The Domestic Abuse Bill would be reintroduced and a National Refuge Fund to 'ensure financial stability' for rape crisis centres would be set up.
The manifesto contains a commitment to improve the safety of the family court system for domestic violence victims and prohibit their cross-examination by the alleged abuser. Protections will be introduced for victims of so-called revenge porn. Labour would also introduce a procedure for no-fault divorce and uphold women's reproductive rights.
Public inquiries into 'historical injustices' would be established, judicial warrants would be required for undercover operations and a Public Accountability Bill would be introduced.
The party says a crisis in the criminal justice system 'has left communities less safe, victims less supported and people less able to defend their rights'. Pledging to defend the rule of law, Labour says it will restore total prison officer numbers to 2010 levels and introduce a presumption against prison sentences of six months or less for non-violent and non-sexual offences. It will invest in proven custody alternatives, including women's centres, and expand problem-solving courts. Probation will be reunified and Labour pledges a 'publicly run, locally accountable' probation service.
Kate O'Rourke, chair of the Society of Labour Lawyers, said the manifesto contained a number of 'impressive committments' designed to improve the legal system.
She added: 'Legal aid and a properly funded court system are essential foundations of a modern civilised society. Without them, the rule of law is at serious risk.'