You reap what you sow... the impact of the legal aid changes hits home...

12 Dec

On the 30th November the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, held his annual press conference and commented on the prevalence of litigants in person (LIP) and the use of McKenzie friends in litigation...

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On the 30th November the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, held his annual press conference and commented on the prevalence of litigants in person (LIP) and the use of McKenzie friends in litigation. There were many more LIP than there were before and this was largely brought about by the reduction in legal aid. The main issue centred on the family courts and private law children disputes. There was a need to focus on finding solutions early on and LIP often didn't allow that to happen and prolonged the dispute. In addition there were issues over LIP's being involved in mediation. Whereas legally represented parties had good guidance and advice when conducting a mediation which may resolve the dispute - LIP's often did not take on board the significance of the mediator's views and the consequences of not reaching a suitable agreement.

McKenzie friends were also criticised and this was particularly in relation to those McKenzie friends who were charging for their services. This was mainly in the areas of criminal and immigration work. McKenzie friends were a useful addition where there were clear boundaries set out and good practice obeyed. However many of the professional McKenzie friend were acting in a way that didn't benefit their clients.

Clearly the restrictions on legal aid and legal help swept away the legal advice and representation many litigants had in private law children cases and thus to a great extent the Government is reaping what is sowed. The costs and expenses were merely saved from the legal aid budget and then passed on to the budget of the courts service in terms of resources used and time expended. A sickening of the current restrictions may help both the children at the forefront of the private law cases and the courts in terms of cost saving.

The link to the full transcript of the press conference is below -

https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/lcj-annual-press-conference-2016-transcript-1.pdfpdf-1.pdf

Dylan Morgan

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