This study of legal support gathers the perspectives of people in London with lived experience of the ‘revolving door’ of personal crisis and crime. We asked about their experiences of seeking assistance for cases that should be eligible for legal aid.
Legal aid cuts have meant that growing numbers of people struggle alone, managing multiple problems, navigating a complex justice system, and feeling ignored and abandoned. In our study, the 30 study participants experienced 173 civil legal problems in the last five years, but only sought legal support for 43. This means they did not seek legal support for at least three quarters of civil law cases – and the rate of accessing legal aid is even lower.
As a result of their experiences, many people in the revolving door feel let down by the legal profession and the justice system. Their lack of legal knowledge, social and digital exclusion, rejection for legal support and the knock-on contagious effect are significant barriers to accessing justice.
The Ministry of Justice has recently published its review of The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO), along with a new strategy to deliver better support for people who experience legal problems. These recognise that more needs to be done to understand what works, when and for whom. The strategy focuses on early intervention to resolve problems before they escalate.
Aiming to place people at the heart of a new system for legal support, our briefing highlights ways of addressing the power imbalances. With greater legal education, early legal advice and legal aid, people in the revolving door could achieve equal justice in the capital and beyond.