Family law judge Mr Justice Bodey described the rise of the unrepresented litigant in person as ‘shaming’ at a ceremony to mark his retirement.
Sir David Roderick Lessiter Bodey turned 70 on Saturday: the mandatory retirement on age for judges in England and Wales. Speaking at a ceremony to mark his departure from the bench, after 18 years in the Family Division of the High Court, the veteran judge described the profound changes he had seen in English legal system since the drastic cuts to legal aid introduced in 2013.
He had watched, he said, as the courts filled with people forced to represent themselves, even though they lacked the skills to do so. Sir David recalled sometimes intervening to help such litigants cross-examine witnesses, and sympathised with the frustration they felt.
“I find it shaming that in this country, with its fine record of justice and fairness, that I should be presiding over such cases.”
Family Division President Sir James Munby attended the ceremony.
The Ministry of Justice is conducting a review into the effects of the legal aid cutbacks, with the results expected next spring. A spokesman insisted:
“We are focussing legal aid resources on those who most need help, which is why we are making wider changes which will make it easier for domestic violence victims to qualify for the financial support they need to pay for legal representation.”