The party announced that it would deny labor law firms access to government contracts unless they met a new target for free legal services.
Shadow Justice Secretary David Lamy set out the party’s plan to create a state-run “National Pro-Bono Center” to support people who can’t hire lawyers but are ineligible for legal aid.
Labor says the policy would mean that city law firms could only be considered for government contracts if they provided at least 35 hours of free legal services per year per attorney.
“The city’s law firms are making billions in profits, while low-wage workers see their tax bills rise and wages fall,” Lamy told a labor conference on Tuesday.
“This party recognizes the importance of the private sector doing its job in partnership with the public sector”, the MP said, adding that the national service would mean a “binding” free target for firms seeking government contracts. .
But legal experts have criticized the labor plan – claiming it will not fix the problem of access to justice for those who cannot afford lawyers.
Alasdair Mackenzie, a prominent asylum and immigration lawyer, said the idea smacks of “Victorian-style donations handed down by the wealthy” and urged Labor to boost the existing legal aid system.
He added: “Giving free time to people who can’t provide legal advice isn’t a bad thing, but it wouldn’t be necessary if we had a working legal aid system.”
The government has been accused of “hollowing out” legal aid – the system used to ensure people who can’t afford to hire their own lawyer – receive aid through frequent deductions.
Barrister Mira Hammad said Lamy’s plan was a “terrible idea” that shows “absolute contempt” for specialist lawyers already working in the legal aid sector.
free advice from [city firm] Lawyers who don’t understand the field may be doing more harm than good,” she tweeted.
Labor has promised to reverse earlier Conservative government cuts to legal aid services and make it a “fully functioning public service”.
Lamy also used her conference speech in Brighton to call for a “turning point” in tackling violence against women and girls.
The party has announced a series of proposals for misogyny in the past – including making it a hate crime, increasing the minimum punishment for rapists and making street harassment a new offense.
The shadow justice secretary said: “The tragic deaths of Sabina Nessa, Sarah Everard, Biba Henry and Nicole Smallman should have been a turning point in change.”
On Monday, Lamy criticized his own party for failing to do enough to get black people running for parliament. One of only three black people who are Labor MPs, he said the party needed to do “significantly more” to fix the problem by removing barriers to entry.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /