Resolution member, David Emmerson, has told MPs that legal aid cuts are leading to a failure of justice for many people – particularly those forced to represent themselves in the family courts.
He spoke during a meeting of the Justice Select Committee who were convened to discuss the impact of the changes to the legal aid system in the UK.
During the committee meeting Mr Emmerson said the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LAPSO) was causing an enormous strain on the family courts and was leading to poorer outcomes for those going through the justice system.
During his speech he spoke about the areas worst hit by the reforms, including exceptional case funding, the evidence gateway for legal aid funding for domestic violence and initial legal advice.
He said the ‘safety net’ of exceptional case funding was not working and that unnecessary complexity was deterring many litigants from applying in the first place.
His feelings are backed up by new data from the Ministry of Justice that showed between 1 April and 1 June 2014, there were 125 applications for exceptional case funding, but only four cases in which it was granted.
He also spoke about the difficulties people were facing when trying to access the domestic abuse ‘gateway’ – which grants legal aid to those who can prove they suffered domestic abuse in their relationship – because they were unable to fulfil the eligibility requirements.
He concluded his evidence by saying that legal advice at an early stage in proceedings helped provide “a detailed analysis of a client’s situation and advice on out of court solutions.”
Following the LAPSO cuts this is no longer available, and has been noted as a potential reason for the recent drop in mediation.