The Law Society has launched a wide-ranging review of access to justice to mark the 60th anniversary of legal aid. Andrew Caplen, chairman of the Society’s access to justice committee, will study the long-term policy options for publicly funded criminal and civil legal services, the Society said this week.

Caplen will report to the legal affairs and policy board by the end of the year. There will then be a public consultation, with a final report published by July 2010.

At an anniversary conference at Chancery Lane last week, legal aid minister Lord Bach said legal aid had ‘failed the very people it was set up to protect’. Too much money (£1.2bn), he said, is spent on criminal legal aid at the expense of civil aid – with only £2m on social welfare law.

Peter Grindley, an economic consultant and principal with consultants LECG, who has been working with the Law Society for the past three years looking at the legal aid system, said current legal aid policies do not address questions of scope, quality or funding of legal aid in the future. Reforms introduced following the 2006 Carter review have come a long way, he said, but the main change, best value tendering, is yet to come.