Access to Justice
Introducing the Legal Aid and Advice Act 1949 in Parliament, the Attorney General described it as ‘the charter of the little man to the British courts of justice’. One of the key principles of that great reform was described by Eric Sachs KC, one of its key architects, as being that ‘… the assisted person, aided by the legal advisors of his choice, can assert and protect his rights with substantially all the freedom and all the confidence which was formerly the prerogative of the man of substance’. He may as well have been writing the mission statement of Doughty Street Chambers.
The legal aid system, so fundamental to access to justice, is under attack. Successive governments have whittled away at the protection which it affords to individuals to uphold their rights. The most sustained attack has been over the last four years, starting with the proposals which led to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.
True to our mission, members of Doughty Street have been and will remain at the forefront of the battle to save legal aid from attack, working together with colleagues from across the legal profession and civil society more widely to defend the ability of the everyday person to vindicate their rights in the courts. Members of Chambers have acted in cases about the right to legal aid under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights in refugee family reunion cases and for victims of trafficking: R Gudanviciene & Others v Director of Legal Aid Casework; the lawfulness of the proposed ‘residence test’ for legal aid: R (Public Law Project) v Lord Chancellor and in the ‘no permission no pay’ rules for funding of judicial review proceedings: R (Ben Hoare Bell Solicitors) v Lord Chancellor. We remain committed to upholding the core principle of the Magna Carta: ‘To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice’.