Government Not Lawyers Responsible for Threat to Legal Aid
The Law Society of Jersey, which represents the Island’s legal profession, has said that the future of legal aid in Jersey is on a “knife-edge”, as a result of delays by Government in the implementation of a sustainable legal aid scheme for Jersey.
Law Society President, Advocate John Kelleher, said:
“The current Legal Aid scheme is broken; it is unsustainable and not fit for purpose. But while the legal profession remains committed to maintaining the ‘safety net’ of legal representation for the most vulnerable members of our community who might otherwise be deprived of access to justice, it is important to recognise that responsibility for such provision rests with Government and not the legal profession.”
Having been engaged on the reform of Legal Aid for almost five years, we were hopeful that the end was in sight, with broad agreement on the form of a legal aid scheme, delivered in partnership between the legal profession and Government, that was fit for the future.”
However, delays in progressing this important initiative have led the Law Society to question the commitment on the part of Government to deliver on its part of the bargain in relation to Legal Aid with any degree of urgency – or at all.
“Regrettably, we have to question whether this Government takes Access to Justice seriously. As well as the delays in moving this important initiative forward, they are now looking to move the goalposts, to the detriment of the legal profession and, ultimately, to the people of Jersey.”
Advocate Kelleher added:
“The entire system of legal aid in Jersey is on a knife-edge. Our goodwill has been stretched to the limit and our patience is wearing thin.
Despite expressing our concerns to the Chief Minister four weeks ago, other than confirmation today that the administration of legal aid will be funded next year, nothing has changed and we are, in reality, no further forward.
The threat to legal aid is real – but it is the Government and not the legal profession that is responsible, and it is the Government that can do something about it, if it cares about access to justice and the interests of the people of the Island it serves.”