Legal Aid – Not Holding My Breath

By Paul Hunt at 18:00

At the point I am writing this we are poised on the brink of polling day, an event which seems to have been hovering before us like a mirage for what seems an eternity.

The coalition Government abolished legal aid for most family law cases in April 2013 but even now people are only just discovering this.

In these times of austerity can we expect a new Government, whatever shape it might take, to make any changes regarding family legal aid?

I am not holding my breath on this. Given that the present ‘reforms’ were the creation of both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in coalition I have no reason to expect either party to suddenly resile from a position which they have held to firmly, against criticism from all sides, throughout Parliament.

The Labour party has made noises about its dissatisfaction with the current legal aid position and has also announced that it intends to make it easier to get evidence of domestic violence as a stepping stone to legal aid and interestingly to ban GP’s from charging for reports for the purpose of providing that evidence.

It should be said that one of the issues raised is the lack of legal aid means that a victim of domestic violence can be cross examined directly in Court by the alleged perpetrator, although that does miss the point (and the Labour party is not the only one to miss it) that whether or not a victim has legal aid will make no difference to them being cross examined by an unrepresented alleged perpetrator. It is the lack of legal aid for the perpetrator that can lead to direct confrontations at Court.

There is an argument for there being a level playing field in situations of that kind.

I suspect that whatever the outcome of the General Election sympathetic noises may be about as far as it gets and that we will continue to see people struggling unrepresented in unfamiliar territory at Court or giving up.

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Paul Hunt

Paul Hunt , Senior Associate

As a senior solicitor Paul is responsible for cases involving divorce or separation, children, financial and property issues and domestic violence.

He is member of Resolution panel for private children law, ancillary relief and domestic violence. Paul is also trained in Collaborative Law.

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