‘Access to legal aid is a human right, not an economic privilege’ – Corbyn

© Andrew Winning
Access to legal aid is a fundamental human right that must be defended if Britain is to remain a just society and protect its most vulnerable members, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said.

In an impassioned speech in central London on Wednesday, Corbyn criticized the withdrawal of legal aid for welfare benefit cases and employment tribunals.

The Labour chief warned that the number of social welfare cases in receipt of legal aid assistance has dropped dramatically since 2010. He made the comments at a meeting organized by Britain’s Justice Alliance, which was attended by a host of leading lawyers and political campaigners.

Corbyn pledged that Labour would back and defend legal aid in Britain as courts and law centers continue to close in the face of government cuts.

“The opportunity to be represented at employment tribunals has gone. It’s a denial of justice. I would not say that legal aid is an economic benefit, it’s a basic human right,” he said.

The Labour leader condemned the American justice system, saying it leads to high rates of re-offending.

“I think there’s good in everybody,” he said. “Whatever crime has been committed. You should reach out to support them and [provide] rehabilitation not just punishment.”

Also attending the meeting were director of Liberty Shami Chakrabarti, Legal Director at the Howard League for Penal Reform Emma Scott, barristers and House of Lords member Baroness Helena Kennedy QC.

Chakrabarti told crowds gathered at the rally government cuts to legal aid are “deeply ideological and spiteful.”

A group of people who have utilized legal aid to defend their basic human rights also addressed the audience.