Derek urges the Government to act on legal aid

West Cornwall MP Derek Thomas has urged the Government to act to ensure that people in rural areas are able to access legal aid.

Mr Thomas has discovered that since changes to how legal aid is funded were made in 2013, the number of legal aid lawyers has dropped dramatically.

As an example, there is now only one office across the whole of Cornwall that offers legal aid on housing-related matters.

This has resulted in the number of people accessing this service falling from 477 in 2012/13 (the last year before the introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act) to just 84 in 2016/17.

“This shortage in legal aid advice for housing means that people on low incomes facing homelessness and eviction are struggling to get the local face-to-face advice they desperately need,” said Mr Thomas.

“Indeed across the West Cornwall constituency of St Ives, a large constituency when measured geographically, there is only one office that is a legal aid contract holder and they only handle family law.

“As a result, people in West Cornwall are finding it very hard to access the legal representation they are entitled to by law.”

In a parliamentary question tabled on Tuesday (today), Mr Thomas requested that the Justice Department carry out research into how the changes in legal aid funding have affected vulnerable people in rural areas and to consider measures to address the shortage of adequate representation.