Promoting access to justice is at the heart of the Law Society’s general election manifesto, published today to coincide with the party conference season.
This would mean reversing some of the recent far-reaching reforms of the legal system, it stresses.
‘To make society fairer, strengthen our global standing and boost our economy,’ the Society says the next government should:
- Ensure every individual has effective access to justice;
- Protect and enhance the role of English and Welsh law; and
- Enable legal services to make their major contribution to UK plc.
On access, the manifesto notes that the UK has a ‘world-renowned legal system that has been through substantial changes’, adding: ‘What is needed is a period of stability and a fundamental review of the impact and combined effects of the changes to civil justice, the cuts to legal aid and other changes to the system introduced in recent years.’
In addition to stopping any further changes to legal aid, Chancery Lane wants immediate repeal of the civil residence test and restoration of welfare benefits advice funding. The limit for small claims in personal injury should be frozen at £1,000 until the impact of recent changes has been assessed, while the criminal justice system should be subject to a ‘fundamental review’.
With justice secretary Chris Grayling expected to make an announcement on human rights at the Conservative party conference next week, Chancery Lane stresses that the rule of law and human rights are critical to the UK’s global standing.
The next government should defend the Human Rights Act and work with the European Court of Human Rights to ensure it operates effectively and fairly, the manifesto adds.
Among measures to boost the economy, the Society wants the next government to implement the Law Commission’s recommendations on intellectual property law ‘so the UK maintains its current reputation as a centre for intellectual property expertise’.
It also calls for further investment in digital infrastructure for the courts.