The Bach Commission - a family perspective
The Labour-backed report of former justice minister Lord Bach, hit the headlines recently as it made wide ranging recommendations on the justice system, including a new ‘Right to Justice Act’. The two year review heavily criticised the coalition government’s controversial Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012 which has cut back access to legal aid.
Focusing on family law, the Commission recommends that legal aid is restored in relation to early legal help across all family cases, and that all matters concerning legal support for children should qualify for legal aid assistance. In addition, the Commission also sets out that family law cases with certain characteristics should be brought back within the scope of civil legal aid. There are six different characteristics proposed, including representation in particularly sensitive areas (e.g. where primary care of a child is in dispute), cases involving an allegation so serious it would be unjust not to provide legal representation, and cases where expertise is required to determine the best interests of a child but cannot be afforded.
The reduction of legal aid has certainly had a significant impact on the area of family law, and the report seeks to address what it describes as ‘a broken system’ with increased funding. However, it remains to be seen whether the government will be able to implement these proposals at a time of intense scrutiny over state spending.