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.”