The cuts to legal aid for family law cases are “not fair” to people who end up representing themselves, a committee of MPs heard yesterday.
The House of Commons Justice Select Committee was told this during its second session to discuss the impact of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO).
Since LASPO was enacted, legal aid for most private family law cases was eliminated. The result has been a steep rise in the number of litigants in person, which are people who go to court without any form of legal representation.
Nicola Jones-King, co-chair of the Association of Lawyers for Children, told the committee that any assistance given to litigants in person is just a “sticking plaster”, as it does not adequately compensate for having a lawyer with them in court.
David Emmerson, member of family law organisation Resolution, said that the “exceptional cases” provision in LASPO, which gives a very small number of people access to legal aid, was not working.
He added that the application form for exceptional funding was “so complicated that, if you can complete it, it’s almost proof that you can represent yourself”.
This criticism comes very soon after a family law judge in Wales said the cuts were “damaging” to children.
Also invited to speak at the hearing were representatives from National Family Mediation and the Family Law Bar Association.
Recently, the Law Society launched a campaign encouraging the use of legal professionals, rather than relying on unqualified advisors.