As the wait for the government's delayed review of its legal aid reforms continues, young legal aid lawyers have been urged to take their MPs to work to show them the 'devastating effects' of controversial cuts.
MPs such as Conservative Bob Neill, chair of the House of Commons justice select committee, have acknowledged that the government may have gone too far with cuts introduced by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act in 2013.
Now the Young Legal Aid Lawyers group says more MPs 'are needed to appreciate the devastating effects of LASPO. Therefore, we are looking for YLALs to take their MPs to work so that they can see first-hand why a properly resourced legal aid scheme is essential'.
The group wants participating lawyers to show MPs a 'snapshot' of their day job, 'be it helping individuals to navigate their transition on to Universal Credit, working with people on the brink of losing their homes at a housing duty scheme or representing young people in a magistrates’ court'. The campaign will not only educate MPs, the group adds, 'but it will provide an opportunity to publicise what is happening on the ground and build public support for a properly resourced legal aid scheme'.
Oliver Carter, a solicitor at national firm Irwin Mitchell and co-chair of the group, told the Gazette: 'As legal aid lawyers working at the coal face, we know that cuts to legal aid and sustained underfunding of the courts have resulted in a justice system that is creaking at the seams, functioning only through the goodwill of dedicated but overworked professionals within it.
'With the government review of LASPO due to be published soon, we believe it is vital to make sure MPs are aware of this crisis so that they can take action to restore access to justice.'
Practitioners are asked to register their interest by 6 February.
Last year Labour MP and solicitor Bambos Charalambous, a member of the justice committee, accompanied barrister Danielle Manson for an 'eye opening' visit to Thames Magistrates' Court in London:
Eye opening visit to Thames Mags. Court to see the criminal justice system in action with @daniellejmanson who only received her papers at 7.43am! I observed a court ill equipped to deal with a defendant in a wheelchair, an unrepresented man plead guilty and other shortcomings. pic.twitter.com/blYpoGAB7W— Bambos Charalambous MP (@BambosMP) October 1, 2018
Other efforts to educate MPs have included sending them a copy of anonymous legal blogger The Secret Barrister's acclaimed book, Stories of the Law and How It's Broken.