The long awaited final report of the Bach Commission was released just prior to the Labour Party Conference in September 2017. It is entitled ‘The Right to Justice’. The Bach Commission was set up by the Labour Party though has operated independently of the Labour Party.
Amongst the very important recommendations made by the Commission are the following:-
- The primary recommendation is for a new Right to Justice Act which will codify and supplement our existing rights and establish a new right for individuals to receive reasonable legal assistance, without costs they cannot afford. It will also establish a new, independent body to promote, develop and enforce that right.
- The Government should introduce a significantly simpler and more generous scheme for legal aid.
- The Commission recommends that the Government restores legal aid for early Legal Help to pre Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPOA) 2012 levels for all social welfare law (including debt, employment, welfare benefits, immigration and housing), for family law and for prisoners in appropriate cases.
- All matters concerning legal support for children should be brought back into the scope of civil legal aid.
- Certain family law cases should be brought back into the scope of civil legal aid with respect to representation in court.
- There should be a full investigation into which areas of immigration laws should be within the scope of legal aid funded representation.
- Where the state is funding one or more of the other parties at an inquest, it should also provide legal aid for representation of the family of the deceased.
- Judicial review cases have formally remained within the scope of legal aid but new regulations have dissuaded providers from issuing proceedings. These regulations, which limit the remuneration of legal aid providers for judicial review cases, should be repealed.
- The Exceptional Case Funding Scheme has manifestly failed and needs urgent review and reform.
- The Legal Aid Agency should be replaced by an independent body that operates the legal aid system at arm’s length from government.
- Immediate action should be taken to fix the Legal Aid Agency’s client and case management computer system. This should be done by working with a group of users to identify, develop and implement solutions so that it is fit for purpose.
- *The mandatory requirement for mortgage debt, special educational needs and discrimination law to be accessed via the civil legal aid gateway telephone service should be removed, and face-to-face help should be available for those who need it.
The Shadow Justice Secretary, Richard Burgon MP, has stated that the recommendations of the Bach Commission will form an important part of the next Labour Manifesto.