Speaking at her first press conference as president of the Supreme Court last month, Lady Hale criticised the cuts to legal aid introduced by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO), describing them as a ‘false economy’. She believes early advice can help resolve many legal problems.
Bodey J, who sat in the Family Division of the High Court for 18 years, has also hit out at the impact of legal aid cuts on access to justice. Speaking at the valediction event to mark his retirement last month, he explained that he sometimes had to help litigants in person by cross-examining witnesses on their behalf. He said: ‘I find it shaming that in this country, with its fine record of justice and fairness, that I should be presiding over such cases.’
The latest figures from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), released at the end of September, show an increase in the number of unrepresented parties in private law family cases (Family court statistics quarterly, England and Wales, April to June 2017
). In 36 per cent of new disposals in the period April to June this year, neither party was represented, compared with 34 per cent in the previous quarter. Overall, the new cases involved 28,278 children. According to the MoJ, in the four years since the introduction of the LASPO cuts, the number of cases in which neither party is represented has grown by 19 percentage points.