25th September 2014
JustRights – the campaign for fair access to advice, advocacy and legal representation for children and young people – welcomes the reports published today by the Children’s Commissioner on the impact of legal aid cuts on children and young people.
Laura Janes, Legal Co-Director of The Howard League for Penal Reform and Co-Chair of JustRights, said:
“This important report echoes my experience of the problems young people in conflict with the law face. So many young people see the law as something that is there to punish them rather than a potential solution to the problems they face. This means that children and young people are disadvantaged from the outset and require additional support to access and then make the best use of the law. The blanket application of legal aid cuts across the board means that children and young people, who do not even know about their legal rights or the existence of legal aid, have been doubly affected. I hope that the Ministry of Justice will take immediate steps to ensure information and free advice and representation to all young people to redress the imbalance.”
James Kenrick, Advice Manager at Youth Access and Co-Chair of JustRights, said:
“We are so pleased that the Children’s Commissioner has shone a light on this often-overlooked issue. JustRights has consistently raised concerns about the impact of cuts to legal aid on the welfare and protection of vulnerable young people. The report highlights the fact that the system that should ensure young people can access the legal support they need to enforce their basic rights is in crisis. The Government must now listen to the experts - including young people themselves - and ensure that no child or young person is left to navigate the legal system alone.”
Later this autumn, JustRights will publish its Young People’s Manifesto, setting out the changes young people are demanding in order to secure their access to legal advice and make their rights a reality. This important issue will also be the subject of the next All Party Group on Legal Aid on 16 October 2014 hosted by the Legal Aid Practitioners Group and the Young Legal Aid Lawyers.
For further information and comment, please contact:
Laura Janes, Co-Chair, JustRights - 07817 962 206; Laura.Janes@howardleague.org
James Kenrick, Co-Chair, JustRights – 07535 344 881; firstname.lastname@example.org