Family law organisation Resolution has questioned a report in the Daily Mail which claimed the President of the Family Division had criticised spending on care cases.
The paper said Sir James Munby had claimed too much public money was “squandered” on legal professionals in cases involving children in care. While children must be properly represented in court, and have an appointed social worker as well, the President reportedly said, “we need to remember that all this costs money”.
The paper’s story was based on the 14th View from the President’s Chambers, the latest edition of a bulletin issued by Sir James since he was became President of the Family Division of the High Court in January 2013.
A spokesman for Resolution, however, said the Mail’s story consisted of “cheap shots at lawyers” and “selective reporting”.
“What the President actually said was the tandem model – which rightly requires that children in care cases be represented by both a guardian and a solicitor – sometimes does necessitate wider legal support. He also said of any reformed model of representation that ‘none of this can be allowed to prejudice the fundamentals of the tandem model.’ “
The legal aid budget had been “decimated” in recent years, the spokesman continued, and any suggestion that the cuts had consisted only of taking money from wealthy lawyers “distorts the reality” of the situation.
“Setting aside for the moment that legal aid lawyers earn, on average, around £25,000 per year; the truth is that these cuts have made it harder for some of the most vulnerable in society – including, for example, victims of domestic abuse – to get access to justice.”
The government excluded care cases from the most recent cuts to the legal aid budget, he noted. Investment was vital to ensure that vulnerable children were protected and heard, the spokesman insisted, and this required proper legal representation.
Resolution represents solicitors and other legal professionals focused on a “non-confrontational” approach to family law.
Read the 14th View from the President’s Chambers here.