Legal Aid Reforms and Women’s Access to Justice
Shadow Report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: Follow up procedure: Report on behalf of Women’s Resource Centre (WRC) and partner NGOs.
- The Women’s Resource Centre was the umbrella organisation in the preparation of the shadow report for the examination of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 2013
- Consequent to that report this submission provides information for its follow up procedure on the 2013 concluding observations to United Kingdom (UK) on Legal Aid and access to justice (para 24), focussing on the impact of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2002 (LASPO) on access to justice.
- This report aims to assist the CEDAW Committee to evaluate the net effect of the progress reported in the government response, to correct inaccuracies in the UK report dated the 7th March 2016 and to highlight issues which disproportionately impact on women. It also underlines the impact of some of the reforms in the Legal Aid system which impact Access to Justice. No Government data is available on the impact of the LASPO reforms to the availability of Access to Justice.
- CEDAW’s concluding determination in 2013 at paragraph 68 is the focus of this response. Of particular concern to the women’s sector is schedule one of LASPO which excludes all forms of private family law from the Legal Aid litigation concerning, inter alia, divorce, property disputes, housing, immigration matters and issues concerning disputes between parents and other family members about their children. The Commissioners also noted with concern a proposed Residence Test (RT) , introduction of Court fees for Employment Appeal Tribunals a potential reliance on informal community arbitration systems including faith based tribunals as a result.