Legal Aid and Social Security

Publication Date01 Jul 1944
AuthorJohn Terry,C. M. Schmitthoff
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2230.1944.tb00976.x
MODERN LAW REVIEW
July,
1944
LEGAL
AID
AND
SOCIAL SECURITY
HE impact of the new social order on the existing machinery of
justice
is
creating
a
problem of great intricacy. The administration
of the law,
if
it be good, cannot be cheap.
To
the layman our legal
machinery with its division of the profession, expensive process, variety
of courts, and strange mixture of learning and common sense may appear
cumbersome and illogical, but there is general agreement that our legal
system
is
superior to any other. Whilst this pride in English justice is well
founded
it
cannot be denied that many members of the community find
difficulty in availing themselves of the remedies the law provides through
the absence of the funds necessary for the functioning of the legal machinery
involved. The social consequences of the war have, on the whole, intensified
this
difficulty, and given rise to a sense of helplessness in the individual who,
if ignorant of all the facts, may well suspect that the protection of the law,
at least in civil cases, is open only to those who can afford to pay for it.
This
is
a
dangerous and unhealthy state of affairs.
A
way must be found,
without basically interfering with the existing fabric of legal procedure,
whereby every member of the community, whatever his financial position,
may be able
td
set in motion and maintain in operation the machinery
of
justice. Procedure must not be permitted to frustrate principle nor means
to defeat ends.
I
In the past this problem has repeatedly received public attention and
various Lords Chancellor have appointed Committees to report on the
agencies of free legal advice.’
So
far as legal advice to poor persons is
concerned the only determined effort to deal with the problem has been
made not by the State but by the legal profession. Before the war members
of both branches of the profession operated in England and Wales
125
free legal advice centres whose methods, organisation and finance have
been described by Mr. J. Mervyn Jones in his excellent report on “Free
Legal Advice in England and Wales.”a The fifty-five centres operating in
London were affiliated to the Bentham Committee, which likewise
was
created by the voluntary co-operation
of
solicitors and counsel in
1931.
The Committee establishes free legal advice centres, fills vacancies at the
various centres, secures a high professional standard in their administration
and cafies legal aid in appropriate cases beyond mere advice to detailed
negotiations and representation in Court through a rota of professional men
who give their services free of charge. The work done by members of the
profession in these centres and committees has been described by Lord
Maughama
as
being of great social and philanthropic value, and
as
entailing
a
sacrifice of leisure and convenience by hard working professional men and
others which cannot be estimated in money.
The social evolution accompanying the war has thrown the problem
of free legal aid into a different perspective
;
for the conception of charitable
assistance to the pauper
is
yielding to tho ideal of social service to the
1
E.g.
Lord Finlay’s Committee,
1926
(Cmd.
2638),
1928
(Cmd.
3016).
In
1937
the
Secretary
of
State for Scotland appointed a Committee
to
report
on
the
Scots system
of
Legal Aid for
the
Poor (Cmd.
5435).
*
Oxford, Slatters
t
Rose, Ltd.,
1940.
*
Preface to
J.
Mervyn Jones’s
Free Legal
Advice
in
England and
Walcr
T

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