A judge in the Family Court has ordered the government to pay for a father’s legal representation even though he does not qualify for legal aid.
In K & H (Children: Unrepresented Father: Cross-Examination of Child), the father was facing accusations that he had sexually abused his ex-partner’s eldest daughter from a previous relationship. He denied the allegation.
Before the care of the man’s own children could be considered, Judge Bellamy said there had to be a fact finding hearing to determine the veracity of the accusations against him.
In order to make such a determination, the girl who made the accusations is required to give evidence at the hearing. However, as the father was a litigant in person, the judge said he should not be the one to cross-examine her. He added that it was “not appropriate for those questions to be put by the judge” either.
The father did not qualify for legal aid as he “falls on the wrong side” of the £734 per month threshold of disposable income by which eligibility is assessed. With regard to the threshold, Judge Bellamy said it was “absurd to suggest that such a person is better able to meet his own legal fees than his neighbour with a disposable income of £733 per month”.
Despite the father having disposable income of £960 a month, the judge noted that he still had to meet a number of expenses which the legal aid threshold did not take into account, such as “food, council tax, water rates, gas, electricity, telephone, clothing, and travel”.
Sitting at the Family Court in Leicester, Judge Bellamy ruled that the father needed legal representation in the fact finding hearing and, as he was unable to afford one himself, the legal fee should be paid by Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service.
To read the full judgment, click here.