Financial & Legal News

Proposed Legal Aid cuts will be devastating for the man in the street

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You may have heard in the news that the Government is seeking to cut the availability of Legal Aid in civil cases in England and Wales, as part of its ongoing cost saving exercises. What people, in particular the normal man on the street - as opposed to wealthy people - perhaps do not realise is the actual extent of the cuts, says Tracy Crompton of family law specialists Pearson Hinchliffe LLP.

If the Government gets its way, the cuts, totalling £350m per year for the next 5 years, will see Legal Aid made unavailable in all divorce cases, financial cases arising from divorce, cohabitation cases and children cases (contact and residence), unless evidence can be produced that the person seeking Legal Aid is the victim of domestic violence.

Plan to Withdraw Legal Aid

Currently, people can get legal help at little or no cost from an experienced and sympathetic solicitor in what is often a very difficult and emotional period when help can be critical for both parties, in particular any children involved. Under the new proposals, such help will be withdrawn from all but exceptional cases and will only be available if the parties can afford to pay for a lawyer, which is often impossible at the point of separation as the family finances are usually stretched by attempting to re-house one or both parties.

Tracy Crompton says the cuts will be devastating: “In our particular practice it is not only clients who are likely to suffer, the cuts will also cause chaos in the local Court system as more people will be forced to go to Court on their own without the expert guidance of a lawyer. This will serve only to clog up the system, which in turn will be a false economy for the Government as, after all, the Government pays for the running of the Courts”.

A consultation to gauge reaction to the proposals launched by Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke concludes this February.

Tracy Crompton says: “Lawyers and other interested parties across the country are replying to the consultation to object in the strongest terms possible, and the Law Society is putting its considerable weight behind the cause by launching an internet campaign to urge the Government to reconsider”.

The Law Society’s campaign website can be found at www.soundoffforjustice.org.uk.

Tracy Crompton added: “I would urge anyone who feels strongly about the proposed Legal Aid reforms to make their feelings known by writing to the Ministry of Justice and by contacting their local MP and newspapers; it will all add grist to the campaign mill.” 

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

This blog was posted some time ago and its contents may now be out of date. For the latest legal position relating to these issues, get in touch with the author - or make an enquiry now.

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