The UK government has cut the annual legal aid budget by £320m, and plans to continue cutting it by £220m each year until 2018.
As anyone with two brain cells to rub together will realise, the cuts have affected the most vulnerable members of our society, who can not afford to pay for professional legal representation, and end up having to represent themselves in court, opposite trained barristers.
But what does this mean in concrete terms for the individuals who are affected?
Here’s one story.
Noela Claye is a rape survivor from Sierra Leone. The legal aid cuts made her experience of going to court much more traumatic. She had been denied expert legal representation and psychiatric evidence which would have recorded and corroborated her experiences, so she was forced to go through the details of the rape in front of the judge. She faced vigorous and at times cruel cross-examination and broke down frequently… Ms Claye won her case, but because the Home Office have appealed, she is going to have to go through it all again at another hearing and still without legal aid.
Ms Claye is being supported by Women Against Rape – a grassroots organization that provides support, legal advice and advocacy for all women and girls, and the All African Women’s Group.
There is still time to write to Theresa May to ask that she withdraw the Home Office’s appeal against Noela Claye. (The link leads to more information about Ms Claye’s case, including details about the rape.)
You can read more about cuts to legal aid and their effects here.