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President warns legal aid in private law proceedings could be abolished

Date:20 SEP 2010

Sir Nicholas WallThe President of the Family Division, Sir Nicholas Wall, has warned that legal aid for private law proceedings may be abolished as an outcome of the Family Justice Review.

In his speech yesterday to the annual volunteers' conference of shared parenting charity Families Need Fathers, Sir Nicholas said: "The impression I have gained so far is that the government is likely to invest heavily in the outcome of the Family Justice Review currently underway.

"Be under no illusions. The recommendations are likely to be radical. There are no sacred cows. I have no idea what the final recommendations will be, but you do not need a crystal ball to see that legal aid for private law proceedings is likely to be further diminished if not abolished: that long and protracted contact and residence disputes will become things of the past, and that out of court mediation and conciliation will be encouraged"

Writing in the September issue of the Government Gazette a junior justice minister, Jonathan Djanogly, said that mediation should be used more as an alternative to using courts in family justice disputes.

Sir Nicholas expanded on this: "The [government's] current position, as I understand it, is that parties (whether publicly funded or not) will be required to attend a mediation information and assessment meeting as a precondition for instituting proceedings. In other words, before a party can institute proceedings he or she will have to show that mediation has been attempted and has failed."

In a wide-ranging speech Sir Nicholas also discussed shared parenting saying: "In the same way as it takes two human beings to create a child, and since most children learn their attitudes about the world in general and the opposite sex in particular from their parents, the best upbringing for most children is in a household where there are two loving parents.

"The separated parent's role in the lives of his or her children retains the same degree of importance as when the parents were living together, even if the opportunities to manifest the qualities which an absent parent can bring to his children may be limited."