Why Pro Bono is Important in Upholding The English Justice System in the 21st Century?



This essay will explain why pro bono is important in upholding the English justice system in the 21st century.


Pro bono, from the Latin ‘pro bono publico’ meaning for the public good, is the act of providing legal services at a reduced rate or no charge. An essential part of society pro bono enables access to justice for individuals unable to afford legal fees.


The Rule of Law argues that as all citizens are subject to the law it is imperative that the law is accessible so that everyone knows what their rights or legal obligations are [1]. This is particularly important in criminal law where one’s freedom could be at risk or where immigration could lead to illegal deportation.


To be subject to the law yet unable to access legal support through a lack of means is unethical and not reflective of a 21st-century society.


The importance of pro bono services has increased since the introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) which introduced cuts to legal aid resulting in many people being unable to access legal support [2].


This is evident by the number of pro bono clinics opening like Law Works and The Access To Justice Foundation. Lack of accessibility means those without financial means are unable to assert their rights resulting in those rights being eroded over time to the detriment of the individual as in the case of Mr X [3] who did not have legal representation and was sentenced to thirty years in prison. The Centre for Criminal Appeals provided pro bono services to Mr X resulting in an overturn of his conviction, something he would have been unlikely to achieve on his own.


Enforcing rights is essential in upholding the rule of law and the delivery of pro bono helps those individuals reclaim their rights.


A legal aid framework should adequately provide for all who require access to justice. The LASPO reduction in state-funded legal services [4] jars with the increasing number of vulnerable people and makes legal aid more important than ever.


In children’s Education Health Care Plan disputes parents are often forced to appeal in the First Tier Tribunal against a local authority without legal support, navigating the tribunal process themselves, occasionally supported by charities like IPSEA or SOSSEN.


It is unconscionable that the government expects the most vulnerable members of society to go without legal support whilst spending £55 million in legal fees against parents [5].


In summary, all citizens are subject to the law and therefore all require access to justice when required. For those unable to afford legal support pro bono services are essential in enforcing rights because the legal aid provision under LASPO is inadequate and potentially contributes towards miscarriages of justices.


In a 21st century society, where the recognition of rights is essential in achieving an inclusive society pro bono provides a safety net for vulnerable citizens.


Written By: Deborah Malschuk

Competition Winner



References:


[1] Bingham, T., 2011. The Rule of Law. 2nd ed. London: Penguin Books.

[2] Law Society. 2019. Introduction to pro bono. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/en/topics/pro-bono/introduction-to-pro-bono#overview. [Accessed 24 November 2021].

[3] https://atjf.org.uk/challenging-miscarriages-of-justice

[4] Legal Action Group, 2014. Legal Aid at 65 - is the government losing the argument over cuts? [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.lag.org.uk/?fileid=-16910 [Accessed 24 November 2021]

[5] Special Needs Jungle, 2020. 95% of decisions in favour of parents, but nobody wins at the SEND Tribunal. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.specialneedsjungle.com/95-decisions-favour-parents-nobody-wins-send-tribunal/ [Accessed 24 November 2021]

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