Criticism levelled at Ministry of Justices’ legal aid reforms
A recently published report by the Public Accounts Committee has criticised the Ministry of Justice’s changes to legal aid. Whilst the Ministry of Justice’s objective to cut costs as quickly as possible is on track to make a significant cut in spending , it is not clear whether it has achieved its other objectives of reducing the number of cases coming to Court.
‘The Magistrates’ Association has raised concerns about the increase in litigants in person (people representing themselves in Court) especially in cases involving children. These cases take longer than cases where the parties are legally represented and place additional pressure on the Courts Service. There has been a 30 per cent rise in cases starting in the Family Courts since the legal aid reforms. Further, the reforms have inhibited access to mediation for family cases. It appears the Ministry failed to foresee that removing legal aid funding for Solicitors would reduce the number of referrals to mediation. Mediations for family law matters have apparently fallen by 38 per cent in the year after the reforms, rather than increasing by 74 per cent as the Ministry expected.
Resolution (an organisation of Solicitors committed to adopting a constructive and amicable approach in family matters) proposes that funding be made available for initial legal advice in family cases, so that people are able to receive help from a legal professional at the points in the process where they need it most.
The Family Department at Bennett Griffin recognise the importance of securing early legal advice and information before launching into the Court process. Court is not the only option in most cases. There are effective ways of resolving issues that can avoid the lengthy and often stressful process of an application through the Court where decisions may be made that are to neither parties liking. An initial discussion about what an individual wants to achieve or how they go about it can prove invaluable. The Family team at Bennett Griffin is well equipped to provide initial information or comprehensive legal advice to those requiring assistance. Forewarned is forearmed, so they say!
Call the Family Team on 01903 229912 for assistance.
The information contained in this article is for general guidance only and is not intended to be legal advice. Professional advice should always be taken on the application of the law in any particular situation.