A report on litigants in person commissioned by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has been published more than a year after its completion.
Litigants in person in private family law cases examined the problems faced by people who pursue or take part in legal action without a lawyer, normally because they cannot afford the costs in the wake of cuts to legal aid. It featured contributions from academics at the Universities of Exeter, Bristol, Kent, Cambridge and Cardiff and was based on an examination of more than 150 cases.
In September last year, the report’s authors submitted a summary of their findings to Ministry, but the report remained unpublished until last week.
Key recommendations of the newly published report include a re-evaluation of all legal forms, leaflets and documentation in relation to the needs of litigants in person (LIPs); the establishment of a single family court website aimed at LIPs; and that judges be encouraged to give verbal guidance and instruction on the legal process to LIPs. In addition the report calls for a new right for LIPs to take a single friend or family member into court with them without the need to formally submit a CV, as well as greater access to ‘exceptional case’ legal funding for ‘private’ (individual) family law cases.
The report was critical of McKenzie Friends (MFs), informal courtroom advisors who sometimes offer their services for a fee. The authors declare:
“Overall, although the potential value of a supporter should not be discounted, it is doubtful whether formal MFs (particularly paid MFs) are clearly of sufficient value to justify a charge for their services.”
Read the report here.