An online poll commissioned by the Criminal Law Solicitors Association (CLSA) and conducted on 1st and 2nd April 2015 by YouGov has revealed that a higher percentage of those questioned consider that British Citizens have a fundamental right to access to justice than to healthcare which is free at the point of use.
The survey asked, “Which if any of the following do you believe that all British Citizens have a fundamental right to?”
The results were that: 88% for the right to vote; 86% for security (from crime terrorism etc); 84% for an education up to 18; 84% for access to justice (legal aid a fair trial etc); 82% for healthcare that is free at the point of use; 79% for the state pension; and 65% for financial support when someone is out of work. The poll also found that when told the definition of legal aid, 89% of the sample believed that its availability is important for ensuring access to justice for all income groups.
Robin Murray, vice-chair of the CLSA, said: “The findings are a definitive statement to all political parties that the public believe access to justice, underpinned by legal aid, is a fundamental right. Despite five years of unrelenting cuts and dishonest rhetoric that ‘we cannot afford the system as it currently stands’, the public have signalled their support for legal aid is unwavering.
“[It] is particularly heartening to a battered and bruised profession and has given us all a real shot in the arm ahead of our vote for justice rally. At the rally on 23 April we will add our collective voice to the general election campaign and make sure that politicians start taking seriously the absolute crisis our once world-renowned legal system finds itself in.”
With the general election just over 3 weeks away each of the major political parties has pledged further funding for the NHS in the belief that this will win them additional votes. In the wake of the negative effects the cuts in legal aid have had in access to justice for the most vulnerable in society the results of this poll ought to provide the politicians with food for thought and to act as a rallying cry to the profession.