The Law Society has warned that thousands of vulnerable families will be left without access to legal advice following the proposed cuts in legal aid.
Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly said that England ‘has one the most expensive legal aid systems in the world’ and is hoping to reduce the number of civil law cases by 547,000 a year. Ministers have described this as an attempt to save money and ‘discourage a culture of litigation.’
Head of our Family Team, Julie-Ann Harris says “It is proposed that whole areas of law will be removed from public funding. Couples divorcing would no longer be able to receive free legal representation for court cases, unless domestic violence or forced marriage is involved. Ministers hope this move will encourage couples to seek mediation.”
Government estimates that this move will reduce the number of cases by 265,000 per year although people with antisocial behaviour, homelessness and housing disrepair problems will still be able to get free legal advice.
Other areas of legal advice previously covered by legal aid will be removed from public funding completely – these include debt advice, employment and social welfare. All funding for personal injury and clinical negligence cases would also be abolished. The President of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, Muiris Lyons, said that the ‘people most affected by these cuts are likely to be people who have suffered serious or catastrophic injury and where the damages involved are very high. No win, no fee has helped provide access to justice for injured people who cannot otherwise afford it.’
The Lord Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, said that legal aid will still be routinely available in civil and family cases where people’s life or liberty are at stake, or where they are at risk of serious physical harm or immediate loss of their home.
While Frettens are not able to offer Legal Aid, Julie-Ann is able to offer mediation as an alternative to court for a range of family disputes. For a free initial meeting please call 01202 499255 and Julie-Ann will be happy to discuss any questions you may have.