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A week in family law: legal aid, a crisis and a treacherous husband  

Public support for legal aid 

The public overwhelmingly supports legal aid, the Law Society has said, as it marked the anniversary of the government’s review of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (‘LASPO’), which abolished legal aid for most private law family cases. The Society said that public backing was strongest for funding in domestic abuse cases (71%) and unfair police treatment (66%). 

Law Society president Simon Davis commented: 

“Our legal needs survey with the Legal Services Board shows a huge 92% of adults support legal aid. LASPO had a devastating impact on people’s ability to access justice – with thousands of people rendered ineligible for legal aid overnight. The range of legal issues which qualified for legal aid was cut drastically. Early advice was particularly hard hit and the “exceptional case funding” safety net has not worked …

This has led to a huge influx of people navigating the justice system unrepresented – with no legal advice to help them enforce their rights. Many more people simply give up and live with injustice, which has a corrosive effect on people’s belief in the rule of law … One year on from the LASPO review, the government must follow through on their commitment to reassess the availability of legal aid and give the public the access to justice they so clearly support.” 

And so say all of us. 

Crisis in family law 

The former President of the Family Division Sir James Munby has warned about a ‘crisis in private family law’, caused by ‘heavy and sustained attack from two viewpoints: those who have experience of the system as litigants, where much of the debate is polarised and largely gender-based; and that of many experienced and responsible journalists, and of increasing numbers of legally qualified family practitioners, whose experiences and opinions feature both in the print and broadcast media and on the blogosphere and other online social media. 

In a speech prepared for a conference on shared parenting in Edinburgh Sir James said that on many topics, the system is criticised from those on both sides of the debate. 

However, he said,

There is no room for the complacent assumption that if you are criticised by both sides you are probably getting it right. On the contrary, it surely suggests that we are getting it very wrong.” 

He added:

“There is a vast and ever-increasing mountain of anecdotal material suggesting beyond all serious argument that there are very serious problems which cannot sensibly be ignored by any reasonable person.”

Referring to a recent case in which a family judge was heavily criticised for finding that a woman was not raped because she took ‘no physical steps’ to stop the man, Sir James said:

“Some will say that this particular judgment is not typical, that it is an outlier. Others no doubt will say that it is no more than the very small tip of the proverbial iceberg. Without research, we simply do not know, but I fear that the latter view is probably very much closer to the truth.” 

He concluded:

“These criticisms are immensely damaging and, unless addressed, and seen to be addressed, with vigour, and with a complete lack of either complacency or sentimental self-protection, will sooner rather later, I fear, bring the system to its knees. Confidence in the system is at an all-time low, and unless drastic steps are taken, it will sink even lower.”

Strong stuff. 

Treacherous husband 

And finally, a millionaire who had four children with his mistress while living double life has been labelled ‘treacherous’ by a High Court judge.

Awarding Victoria Trapitsyna a lump sum of £2.2 million, Mr Justice Holman said that her husband Artur Trapitsyn had treated her with “contempt”, whilst living a double life for 13 years

“Although this story is not unique”, he said, it is hard to imagine a graver assault upon a marriage, apart from abuse or criminal behaviour.” 

Sounds interesting – I look forward to seeing a report of the full judgment! 

Have a good weekend. 

Get in touch

If you would like any advice on divorce or other family law issues please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist divorce lawyers here. 

John Bolch often wonders how he ever became a family lawyer. He no longer practises, but has instead earned a reputation as one of the UK's best-known family law bloggers, with his content now supporting our divorce lawyers and child custody lawyers

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