Baroness Butler-Sloss predicts funding cuts will cause ‘absolute disarray’ in courts

Family Law|News|February 1st 2013

Retired senior judge Baroness Butler-Sloss has predicted “absolute disarray” in the courts if plans to end the funding of two major legal advice centres go ahead.

The Citizens Advice Bureau runs a centre at the Royal Courts of Justice providing advice to litigants in person (people who are not represented in court by a solicitor) appearing at the High Court, Court of Appeal and Family Division, but the officeis set to lose government funding on 1 April. Social welfare legal advisors the Law Centres Network and advisory organisation federation the Advice Services Alliance are also set to lose funding.

The majority of people will lose eligibility for legal aid on the same day, with a sharp rise in the numbers of litigants in person expected as a result.

Baroness Butler-Sloss is former President of the Family Division. Speaking in the House of Lords early this week, she said the Citizens Advice Bureau in the Royal Courts did work of “significance and importance”, according to a report in the Law Society Gazette.

“Having been a judge in the court for many years, I had personal experience of the advantages of the bureau looking after unrepresented families in my court.”

She told Minister of State for Justice Lord McNally removing funding at this point would “leave the public and the courts in absolute disarray.”

He replied: “Quite simply, the days when large amounts of government funds were available for these bodies are over and we all have to face that fact.”

Photo of the Royal Courts of Justice by nomsaleena via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

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Comments(4)

  1. Yvie says:

    While there is no presumption of shared parenting in law, fathers (and sometimes mothers) will be forced to resort to the Family Courts in their endeavours to maintain relationships with their children post-separation. It is something that the Family Courts will have to get used to and deal with. Some organisations actually recommend self representation as they feel litigants in person ‘can do no better or no worse’ than if they use solicitors or barristers.

    If there is no legal aid for either party, then the playing field is at least levelled and may in fact reduce Court applications if both parties have to pay their own costs. Certainly there could be a reduction in malicious applications if there is no legal aid available to fund these applications.

    Equality and fairness would go a long way in creating harmony between inflexible parents and 50/50 shared parenting as the default in law could possibly allay the fears of Baroness Butler-Sloss ‘that there would be absolute disarray in the Family Courts’.

  2. Steve says:

    Hi Yvie

    Totally agree with you, perhaps if quality and fairness is applied in the fist place then we would not have the potential disarray. The problem is not LIP’s, lack of funding, the root cause is the law itself. It needs to look at itself!

  3. Bruno D'Itri says:

    This not the first time the Baroness has voiced her personal concerns over the difficulties which her legal friends and colleagues are likely to face:

    http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/butler-sloss-issues-warning-over-legal-aid-cuts

    If the legal industry ever tried to hire their own dedicated spokesperson in the House of Lords, who do you suppose they’d select?

    Bruno D’Itri

  4. Yvie says:

    In cases of malicious applications which turn out to be without foundation following investigation, if costs were awarded to the innocent victim, there could well be less cases to clog up the Family Courts.

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