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“High costs of Legal Aid demand system rethink,” claims Cardiff Law Professor

22 February 2010

Richard Moorhead, Professor of Law at Cardiff University, has called for an urgent rethink of how legal problems are dealt with, if access to justice is to be a reality.

With the Ministry of Justice under pressure to make £1 billion of efficiency savings, prioritising funding effectively in the legal aid system is now more of a priority than ever.

Giving the keynote address at the recent Westminster Legal Policy Forum conference on Legal Aid, Professor Moorhead said there needed to be some fundamental and radical changes to the system. In particular he suggested:

  • Governments, policymakers and lawyers had to think about changing dispute resolution radically, rather than simply seeking to tack on alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in the hope that it would solve the system’s ills;
  • Challenging the waste generated by having a two party adversarial system for deciding many of the country’s civil disputes – a system with costs driven in substantial measure by the inadequacies of central and local government; and,
  • Looking to radically simplify the law wherever possible, making the law quicker, fairer and more efficient.

"A vast amount of policy resource is spent on clamping down on the suppliers of legal aid, and very little is spent looking at what drives demand for legal aid." Professor Moorhead, Cardiff Law School argued.

"Research has shown that much of the cost of legal aid is demand driven. If we do not look closely at the demand side drivers of legal aid cost we will miss an opportunity to correct major defects in our legal system and forever entrench inequalities of access to justice.

"Research evidence suggests this would not only lead to more effective spending on legal advice and help, but could be used to target other reductions in public expenditure."

The conference was also addressed by Lord Bach, Minister for Legal Aid; Carolyn Regan, Chief Executive of the Legal Services Commission and Des Hudson, Chief Executive of the Law Society.


Notes to editors

A full transcript of the speech can be seen here

For further information please contact:

Professor Richard Moorhead, Professor of Law, Cardiff University 07963 612 005

Georgina Thomson, Public Relations Officer, Cardiff Law School 02920 875465

Stephen Rouse, Cardiff University Press Office, 02920 875596

Cardiff University

Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities and is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s most research intensive universities. Among its academic staff are two Nobel Laureates, including the winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine, Professor Sir Martin Evans.

Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, today the University combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning.