Counting the cost of cuts to legal aid

Cuts to legal aid have created a surge in unrepresented claimants, outbreaks of courtroom violence, additional litigation and increased costs.

WHN’s Head of Family Law, David Connor explains why the UK is now left counting the cost.

Legal aid, provides assistance to those without the financial means to defend themselves in legal disputes, however it faced major cuts in 2011 and the Government unveiled plans to shave a further £220million this year.

Since then there has been a large increase in the number of cases where one or both parties do not have legal representation, most prominently in private law family litigation. Without legal representation, tempers can flare to the point where violence has erupted within the courtroom resulting in the judge being unable to reach a verdict.

This follows an unprecedented ruling by a judge at London crown court to abandon a fraud trial because defendants would not receive a fair trial due to inadequate representation.

As a further consequence we could see children suffer too. Divorce cases are now taking a lot longer to be properly dealt with as without representation couples have to discuss things with each other as opposed to going through their lawyers. Without having family law experts on hand who understand the emotional factors of a divorce or separation and its impact on young children, both parties can become irate and often say inappropriate things which can be extremely stressful if there are children involved.

Legal aid hasn’t disappeared completely. It remains available for Mediation and if you are or have been a victim of domestic violence and your ex-partner is the opponent in your case, you may be able to get legal aid to help. You will however need to provide some evidence and many have become trapped by the new regulations.

We are committed to giving people access to justice and if you require advice on how you can gain legal aid or you need help on what evidence you need to submit give our expert team a call:

• David McCraith at our Accrington office on 01254 236221
• Tanya Magell and Karen Reid at our Blackburn office on 01254 272640
• Kate Allsop, Margaret Mahon, Emma Pike and Mark Taylor at our Bury office on 0161 761 4611
• Louise Daniel at our Haslingden office on 01706 213356
• Carla Williams and David Connor at our Rawtenstall office on 01706 225621