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Five things we can (usefully) do about LASPO

Sep 29, 2018, 21:59 PM
family law, legal aid, LASPO, Child Arrangements Programme, Money Arrangements Programme
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.
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Date : Jul 21, 2014, 02:36 AM
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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.

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 family courts.

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 outside court.

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 official attitude.

(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.

Anyone willing to contribute can contact the project at: Remuneration@BarCouncil.org.uk.

(2) Calculate the net cost of legal aid

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.
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