Cuts to legal aid, enacted by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government in 2012, may have prevented Grenfell residents from pursuing safety concerns through the court system, according to the president of The Law Society.

At least 80 people died as a fourth floor electrical fire shot up the external cladding of the Grenfell Tower block in the early hours of 14 June.

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Laspo) reduced the funding available for poorer citizens to pursue civil claims in UK courts, including housing disputes.

Critics have said that Laspo, which became law in 2013, has created a "two tier justice system".

"There have been reports that tenants of Grenfell Tower were unable to access legal aid to challenge safety concerns because of the cuts," Robert Bourns said.

"If that is the case then we may have a very stark example of what limiting legal aid can mean," he added.

Bourns was speaking at the launch of a report into the effects of Laspo, produced by The Law Society, which represents solicitors in England and Wales. His comments were reported by The Guardian.

The Act, which was opposed through parliament by the Labour opposition, had left poorer tenants with the dilemma of either having "to pay for their own legal advice, represent themselves, or be excluded from the justice system altogether," Bourns said.

The new report, Access Denied? Laspo Four Years On, claims that since 2013 hundreds of thousands of people have been denied access to legal aid that would have previously been eligible as a result of £450m worth of cuts.

"Behind the data are hundreds of thousands of people who can no longer obtain legal aid for matters such as family break up, a range of housing problems, challenges to welfare benefits assessments, employment disputes, or immigration difficulties." Bourne said.

"A properly funded legal aid system is an essential public service that ensures equal access to justice for all," he added.

This morning (28 June) it emerged that retired judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick will lead an independent inquiry into the Grenfell tragedy.

Grenfell Tower block fire Kensington west London
Grenfell residents may have been denied legal access as a result of cuts Toby Melville/Reuters