The number of unrepresented ‘litigants in person’ (LiPs) appearing in courtrooms has ‘horrified’ an Appeal Court Judge.
Dame Elizabeth Gloster is a former barrister and High Court judge who was appointed to the Court of Appeal last year. At a conference held in London to mark the publication of a survey into morale across the legal profession, she said the courts were trying to help those unable to afford legal representation since major cuts were made to legal aid last year. But she added:
“The large number of LiPs leads to delay and is going to clog up the system. Cases with unrepresented litigants take longer.”
The Judge welcomed the £2 million package of support for unrepresented litigants announced last month by Family Justice Minister Simon Hughes, but said she could no longer recommend that any barrister consider a career in the “publicly funded bar”.
Former director of public prosecutions Sir Keir Starmer also appeared at the conference, The Guardian reports. Starmer, also a former barrister, said pro bono [charitable] work by lawyers could not possibly plug the funding gap.
He called on the government to reintroduce legal aid for some issues, citing benefit appeal tribunals as an area of particular need. The process in place for correcting mistaken benefit judgements was “almost impossible”, he said.
“If your benefits are taken away it’s a really serious issue.”
According to the report, an overwhelming 83 per cent of the more than 500 solicitors and barristers surveyed now believe that justice is no longer accessible to all.
Photo by John Halbrook via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence