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No-one expected it to be good news. Even so, the preliminary findings of the Bar Council’s survey on the impact of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) make for demoralising reading.
Meta Title :Five things we can (usefully) do about LASPO
65% of family law barristers said
they undertake less legal aid work since April last year, with only 17% stating
that the implementation of the Act had not affected their practice. 69%
reported a reduction in their fee income. The number of family practitioners
attesting to an increase in litigants in person exceeded even gloomy pre-LASPO
predictions at 88%, and 80% of responses indicated an increase of delay in the
The Child Arrangements Programme envisages a more ‘inquisitorial’ court process functioning effectively in the
post LASPO environment, and the Money Arrangements Programme may well follow
suit. However, the result may in fact be a costly fudge of inquisitorial and
adversarial systems: judges lengthily discharging their newly-expanded duties
with two litigants in person, while represented parties wait expensively
For those still radical enough to
suspect that wider legal representation could actually ease the strains on the
MOJ budget, here are five suggestions gleaned from the Bar Council’s
presentation of their preliminary findings on 12 July. All wording and
extrapolation is the author’s own, and does not necessarily represent any
(1) Share post-LASPO experiences
While the ‘quantitative’ element of the survey has now
concluded, the project is still keen to hear more ‘qualitative’ accounts of the
experiences of legal aid barristers since the implementation of LASPO.
For example, while the majority of respondents to the April
2014 survey said they had no immediate intention of leaving the Bar, many
commented that they were ‘actively considering’ whether they have a long-term future
in the profession. These statements give some weight to the argument that there
is a real threat to the long-term future of the legal aid Bar.
The final report, with a full analysis of the responses to
the April survey, will be published in September. However, further
contributions could add considerable value, particularly as regards volume of
work, level of fee income and the number of litigants in person encountered.
The claim that we have the most expensive legal system in
(3) Calculate the net savings of legal aid cuts
The extent to which cuts to legal aid in fact represent
‘cost shifting’ onto other areas of the MOJ budget could be more fully explored
and widely publicised. How much, for example, does each minute of court time
cost? How many more of these minutes are being expended on litigants in person than would have been spent with
represented parties, and can we quantify the difference?
The economic cost of the wider social problems which legal
aid is geared to address should also be considered. The Home Office, for
example, has accepted in the context of their Call to end violence against women and girls policy that domestic
violence costs the The views expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily those of Family Law or Jordan Publishing and should not be considered as legal advice.