Beyond Advice Deserts: Strategic Ignorance and the Lack of Access to Asylum Legal Advice

  • Jo Wilding


This essay explores the role of strategic ignorance in relation to access to legal advice in England and Wales, drawing on the work of Linsey McGoey (2012; 2019; 2020), taking areas of extreme shortage of immigration and asylum legal advice as an example of the wider phenomenon in access to justice. It argues that there is a misplaced belief in market-based procurement to meet advice needs, which leads to a failure to collect evidence to understand whether the market does in fact achieve this. This avoidance of evidence about market functioning and the relationship between demand and provision is facilitated by fragmentation of both policy and operational responsibilities, leaving large gaps for ignorance, in which the accounts and concerns of advice-users are dismissed as not credible. It argues that, in failing to collect adequate evidence about the functioning of the market, the Lord Chancellor is ignoring a statutory duty to secure the availability of legal aid.

Keywords: legal aid; advice deserts; strategic ignorance; asylum and immigration; LASPO Act 2012 section 2.


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Special Section: Declining Legal Aid and the Implications for Access to Justice