UK legal aid expenditure is one of the highest

Tuesday, 03 November, 2009

An independent report into the costs of legal aid across countries in the EU and further abroad has confirmed that England and Wales has one of the highest per capita spends in the world.

The report by the Centre for Criminal Justice Economics and Psychology shows that legal aid expenditure per head of population in England and Wales is higher than many other countries as a result of higher case volumes and higher average costs per case.

While comparisons of international justice systems can be complex due to differences in methodology and reporting data, the report specifically looks at legal aid expenditure over the period 2000/01 to 2006/07 in countries with a similar GDP per capita and countries that have similarities with England and Wales in terms of legal and administrative systems.

The report shows that in 2004 the cost of legal aid in England and Wales was more than double that of the Netherlands and ten times that of France. Justice Secretary Jack Straw said: "The UK has one of the most generous legal aid systems in the world and continues to provide a vital link to justice for so many people - particularly the most vulnerable in our communities. "Every year legal aid provides around 2.5 million acts of assistance to people with their legal problems. The government has been taking steps to sustain the legal aid budget to ensure it goes as far as possible in favour of civil help for those who need it most."

"In April this year we increased the financial eligibility limits for civil legal aid by 5% - an increase that is in excess of current inflation rates - that will provide an extra 750,000 people with legal aid help and representation for civil issues."

The legal aid budget in England and Wales is around £2.1 billion today. This is similar to the amount spent on running prisons in England and Wales.

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