Thursday, March 08, 2018

Tens of thousands left in legal limbo as government backtracks on legal aid review

Nigel Shepherd
In response to today's comments from the Justice Minister to further postpone the review of legal aid, and alongside the announced changes to the cross-examination of vulnerable witnesses, Resolution Chair Nigel Shepherd said:

"It is now nearly 5 years since the government’s devastating cuts to the legal aid system in England and Wales. In that time we’ve seen the number of people without legal representation in the family courts sky-rocket, countless more are unable to access even basic early legal advice and there has been a fall off in the referrals to family mediation that before the cuts came primarily from family lawyers.

Vulnerable people are still finding it harder to access legal support to help them escape abusive relationships than they did before 2013 .

The government committed to reviewing the impact of LASPO by April this year. And more than a year ago, we were told that this review process had begun. It seems bizarre that, at a time when Government is trying to increase efficiencies in the court system, they’re unwilling to take steps to address the growing number of litigants in person in family courts – a direct result of these cuts and one that comes with a financial and emotional cost and the risk of real injustice.

Whilst we welcome the consultation on other long-awaited measures to protect victims of domestic abuse, it is unacceptable that that there is still no clear timetable to introduce the urgently needed legislation to allow family court judges to prevent perpetrators of abuse (alleged or otherwise) from cross-examining their victims in person.

Today’s announcement sends a very clear, and very stark, message: while ministers continue to drag their feet, tens of thousands are left in legal limbo each year."

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