The latest figures released by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has raised fresh concerns over the number of family cases being brought to court without legal representation.
Stats show that 36% of the 13,029 applications made between April and June this year weren’t legally represented on either side. This is up 2% on the previous quarter.
The increase has led to calls from the legal sector to review the way the family justice system is funded. The view is that even a small amount of government financed advice could help signpost applicants to alternative forms of resolution and information to help them settle cases without having the worry, and inexperience, of representing themselves in court. The concern has been echoed by Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd who described it as ‘deeply worrying’.
Suggested solutions include a return to legal aid or adoption of the Californian practise of providing a court bared solicitor who can advise whilst at court. Legal aid for children matters at least is being championed by the Bach Commission, which is looking into access to justice. The government has also been urged to broaden the remit of legal aid for other specific family cases with respect to court representation.