Save legal aid before it is too late

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2014 National LGBT Conference
31 July 2014
Carried as Amended

This Conference condemns the cuts implemented to legal aid by this government.

Legal aid is the means by which everyone in this country should be able to get access to legal advice and representation.

However whole classes of legal aid have been removed that affect the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Broken Rainbow, the LGBT domestic abuse charity, has highlighted that many LGBT victims of domestic violence can no longer access legal aid and therefore cannot afford access to legal advice and representation

The introduction of a residence test disqualifies anyone from accessing civil legal aid who can’t prove they have been lawfully resident and lived in the UK for 12 months. This affects LGBT asylum seekers and migrants who want to settle in this country and can tear apart LGBT families by deportation.

There is now no access to legal aid for LGBT immigration detainees who have been assaulted.

LGBT prisoners and immigration detainees who suffer mental illness get no legal aid for expert medical and psychological reports.

Cuts in fees to legal aid solicitors now make it untenable for many small firms who give expert advice and representation to operate.

Profit-making multi-national corporations like G4S who lack specialist knowledge and commitment are taking over, risking more miscarriages of justice.

Prison law has been taken out of legal aid so LGBT prisoners have no access to legal aid to make complaints if they are bullied assaulted or cannot access health care treatment. Many LGBT immigration detainees are currently held in prisons in the UK. Most experience mental illness.

Access to Judicial Review (JR) is now restricted. JR allows individuals or groups to hold the state to account when it is acting unlawfully or wrongly. For example JR can stop a LGBT Asylum Seekers deportation

Due to this reduction in legal aid, abuses of power and miscarriages of justice for LGBT people will increase.

Conference therefore calls on the national LGBT committee to:

1. Work with UNISON Labour link to campaign for the Labour Party when in government to repeal these legal aid cuts;

2. Publicise national campaigns Save Legal Aid and the Justice Alliance – and their film, Are You for Justice? – through our LGBT communication channels.