Family Law Awards 2020
Shortlist announced - time to place your vote!
Court of Protection Practice 2020
'Court of Protection Practice goes from strength to strength, having...
Jackson's Matrimonial Finance Tenth Edition
Jackson's Matrimonial Finance is an authoritative specialist text...
Latest articles
Resolution issues Brexit notes for family lawyers ahead of IP completion day
Family lawyer organisation, Resolution, has issued two joint notes to assist family lawyers in England and Wales ahead of the end of the Brexit transition/implementation period at 11 pm on 31 December...
Online filing is real-time on New Year's Eve: practice direction change to accommodate EU withdrawal arrangements
I have heard that there will be an amendment to the relevant practice directions to provide that online applications received on New Year’s Eve after 4:30 PM and before 11:00 PM will count as...
Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust v AB
The issue in this case concerned AB’s capacity to make specific decisions about treatment relating to her anorexia nervosa. She was 28 years old and had suffered with anorexia since the age of...
EU laws continue until at least 2038 and beyond
The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020.  But in matters of law it fully leaves on 31 December 2020.  But EU laws will continue to apply, and be applied, in the English family courts from 1...
Remote hearings in family proceedings – how is justice perceived?
The motion for the recent Kingsley Napley debate:  “This House believes remote hearings are not remotely fair” was carried with a fairly balanced 56% in favour and 44% against....
View all articles

Sandra Davis' Week: Justice denied anywhere diminishes justice everywhere

Sep 29, 2018, 17:36 PM
Slug : SandraDavis18112010
Meta Title :
Meta Keywords :
Canonical URL :
Trending Article : No
Prioritise In Trending Articles : No
Date : Nov 19, 2010, 01:11 AM
Article ID : 93003

Sandra DavisThe purpose of the Legal Aid and Advice Act 1948 was "to make legal aid and advice in England & Wales... more readily available for persons of small or moderate means".

The proposed reforms of the Legal Aid system published by the Ministry of Justice on Monday may well reverse the fundamental principle of access to justice enacted 60 years ago by the architects of the welfare state.

In the family law arena, a significant number of separating couples will have nowhere to turn for legal advice. Legal aid will continue to be available for forced marriage and domestic violence cases, but not for disputes between parents over the care arrangements for their children or to resolve financial disputes following divorce or separation.

The comments made by Jonathan Djanogly, the Justice Minister, seem to suggest these proposals have as much to do with political ideology as with purely budgetary considerations. The fact is, he claims, people are too often willing to hand over their personal problems to the state. This may well be true. Over the years, in the absence of any alternative, the solicitors' office has become the first port of call for separating couples with litigation inevitably ensuing.

Turning back the tide of family litigation requires imagination and, I'm afraid, investment. Withdrawing access for justice for the most vulnerable and offering mediation as the only dispute resolution mechanism is simply not the answer. In the absence of any better alternatives, family litigation will remain the norm.

If these proposals are voted through there will be many instances where one party to a dispute has the resources to fund their own legal representation (and litigation) whilst the other has not. It makes a mockery of justice to have so uneven a playing field.

There will, undoubtedly, be many more couples who decide to take their chances and litigate without the benefit of any legal advice or assistance.

The courts service is already under-staffed and under-resourced. An increase in the number of applications made by unrepresented parties will have an entirely predictable adverse effect on the ability of the courts to function effectively. The removal of legal representation from many family cases will only serve to prolong cases and lead to more appeals.

As cuts in other budgets begin to take their effect, it is likely that the number of people that will be affected by the removal of Legal Aid will rise.

The age of austerity was supposed to be a burden shared by society. It seems increasingly likely, however, that the burden will be heaviest for the most vulnerable.

Sandra Davis is a Partner and Head of Family at Mishcon de Reya. She is a member of the firm's management board, a Fellow of the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the author of International Child Abduction (Sweet & Maxwell, 1993) and a member of the Lord Chancellor's Child Abduction Panel. In 2009 she was shortlisted in the Citywealth Magic Circle Awards as a Leading Lawyer.

The views expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily those of Family Law or Jordan Publishing and should not be considered as legal advice.

Categories :
  • Articles
Tags :
Provider :
Product Bucket :
Recommend These Products
Related Articles
Load more comments
Comment by from