As the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) come into force today, the Bar Council of England and Wales has published A Guide to Representing Yourself in Court.
After LASPO comes into force, fewer people now have access to free legal representation than at any time since legal aid was first introduced in 1949.
The Guide, which has been compiled by a range of Specialist Bar Associations, including a number of QCs, sets out an insider's view on how to find free or affordable help with a legal problem, how to start and defend a claim, how to represent yourself in court and advice on specialist sections of law, including a chapter on family law.
The Bar Council will be sending the Guide to all MPs in England and Wales, so that it might help their constituents who find themselves having to represent themselves in court.
Maura McGowan QC, Chairman of the Bar, said: "We are faced with a situation whereby access to justice is no longer being adequately funded and vulnerable people will suffer. That is wrong, but it would be equally wrong for the profession to stand by and do nothing. That should not be misconstrued as an endorsement of the Government's position; it is because we genuinely believe that access to justice must be our primary consideration.
"The legal profession already offers a huge amount of free legal advice and representation, but we know that cannot hope to meet the need which LASPO will create. We have spent months designing an accessible and clear Guide to help people who are representing themselves to navigate through the process. It is a daunting and stressful process and we hope that this Guide will go some way to making the courts seem a little more accessible."