FLINTSHIRE are Wrexham have both seen a decrease in the number of providers of legal aid, according to figures.

A BBC Shared Data Unit study has analysed the latest legal aid quarterly statistics for England and Wales, sourced from data provided by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

The MoJ has seen its budget reduced by more than 40 per cent since the financial crash, falling from almost £11 billion to £6.3bn.

A further £300 million of cuts by 2018-19 were confirmed in October’s budget.

Legal aid has existed since 1949 to ensure those who cannot afford legal advice or representation can access the justice system in their time of need.

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) heralded cuts to the provision of legal aid across the country.

This effectively removed legal aid from areas of civil law including family, employment, welfare benefits, housing, debt, clinical negligence and non-asylum immigration law matters.

In Wrexham there are seven providers claiming legal aid receipts for civil cases - which is four less than in 2011/12.

The county also has six providers claiming legal aid receipts for criminal cases. There were 11 in 2011/12.

Flintshire now has 10 providers claiming legal aid receipts for civil cases. In 2011/12 there were 15.

And Flintshire has six providers claiming legal aid receipts for criminal cases, two fewer than in 2011/12.

According to the study, there are several areas of law for which no providers in either county are currently offering civil legal aid.

These include welfare, community care, public law, clinical negligence and actions against the police.

Rosie Brighthouse, lawyer at Liberty, said: “Access to justice, and the right to a fair trial, is a fundamental human right that has been significantly undermined by Government cuts.

"Since LASPO passed, it has become extremely difficult for normal people to access legal advice on really important matters such as housing and employment rights.

“These shocking statistics reveal the extent of the crisis we are seeing across the country as a result of legal aid cuts.

"And behind this data lies the real human cost of denying some of the most vulnerable people in our society access to a justice system that belongs to them just as much as it does to those who are rich enough to afford a lawyer without state help.

"At a fundamental level, the erosion of legal aid erodes trust in the rule of law itself, and causes irreparable harm to people’s lives.”

A MoJ spokesman said: “Every person should have access to legal advice when they need it – that’s why the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) keeps availability under constant review and takes urgent action whenever it has concerns.

“There are enough solicitors and barristers for criminal legal aid-funded cases across England and Wales and people can access legal aid advice via telephone for family, housing, and other issues for which legal aid is available as well as face to face.”

The MoJ also offered guidance on the statistics revealed by the study, including that while certain local authorities do not have any providers that had claims billed in the periods shown, that doesn’t mean that the population of a certain area has no access to legal aid.

It is known from client data that people are still claiming for legal aid, a spokesman said, adding that the geographic information is based on the location of the provider and not the client so it is not a precise indicator of where the benefits of legal aid services are felt.