It has been no secret that the state of legal aid in the United Kingdom is in jeopardy and has been since the introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. The scope of legal aid decreased dramatically and there remained only a few areas of law individuals could access free legal help.
With legal aid’s current state and an uncertain future at home, it is a breath of fresh air when we hear news of legal aid expanding in parts of the world! At the beginning of June, Legal Aid Ontario (‘LAO’) announced plans to expand its services to low-income residents – the most significant expansion in almost 25 years.
LAO plans to address the growing needs of vulnerable groups over-represented in courts, including First Nations, victims of domestic violence and individuals suffering from mental illness. They plan on introducing new services, including coverage for first-time offenders in criminal cases and assistance in complex family matters.
The Ontario government has been a keen supporter of LAO, committing $154 million CAD (approximately £79.1 million) over the next 4 years to this expansion. They further demonstrated their support of legal aid last year when they increased the qualifying income threshold making legal aid more accessible.
It is incredibly encouraging to see our neighbours across the pond championing legal aid and addressing the needs of normally silent groups. We can only hope that our new government takes a cue from our Commonwealth partners.
For more information, please see Legal Aid Ontario.