The Bar Council has written to MPs to voice serious concerns about the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, which is scheduled for its second reading in the House of Commons tomorrow afternoon.
Presented to Parliament last Tuesday, the Bill proposes to cut funding to family legal aid services in all areas with the exception of orders or procedures for the care, supervision or protection of children.
The Government has ignored thousands of responses to its consultation in which only 3% of the respondents supported proposals to remove large numbers of cases from the scope of legal aid.
In the briefing to MPs, the Bar Council has argued that abolishing legal aid for legal advice and representation in private law family cases will lead to people having to go to court by themselves. The result would be litigants in person prolonging the length of cases in which they might not put their best arguments before the judiciary. The Bar's concerns have been echoed by the Judges' Council of England and Wales.
The Chairman of the Bar, Peter Lodder QC, said: "The bill proposals will cause great harm to ordinary people. We continue to make the case for access to justice in the strongest terms. There has been much public debate about sentencing. There must be a similar scrutiny of these wide-ranging proposed changes to legal aid.
"A cut-price, DIY justice system, which will actually end up costing more money, rather than saving it, is in no one's interests."