DIY Justice – The April Fool's Joke That Keeps on Giving
It is possible to represent yourself in court and become a successful litigant in person in a family law case. But, the BBC Panorama documentary DIY Justice showed that even if you can, you shouldn't have to.
Injustices Are Happening
Almost 2 years ago on April 1, 2013, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO)
came along and revolutionised the way that legal aid was allocated to cases. Housing, employment and family law issues were all on the chopping block leaving people to represent themselves if they couldn't afford to pay their own legal costs.
As part of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Family Law and the Court of Protection
, Simpson Millar LLP have been an integral part of lobbying the government to reconsider LASPO in light of the devastating effect we've seen it have on the family law sector. The legal profession has even turned to strikes to express their disgust with the slashing of legal aid but to no avail.
People are no longer getting the legal advice they need before going to court and are being forced into a system that they are unprepared to face. The number of litigants in person has shot up significantly since the introduction of LASPO and to bridge the gap, many solicitors have increased the amount of pro bono work they take on. Judges are also taking on extra work on behalf of the people that come into their courts who do not know how to fill out the necessary forms to participate in the court case. This means that it is taking even longer for parents to access their children
, for people with mental health issues to access justice and for divorces
to take place.
One of the greatest fears concerning LASPO is that due to the lack of professional advocates arguing cases in court, more serious miscarriages of justice will occur.
Many people took to Twitter during the show to express their frustration with LASPO using #diyjustice
. Many of their sentiments were the same. Becoming a litigant in person is an upsetting and emotional task that can be made worse if the other side has legal representation. Feelings of overwhelming fear and hopelessness can engulf a litigant in person particularly when they are completely unaware of the legal process and what is expected in court.
Despite there being an Exceptional Case Funding scheme, vulnerable candidates are still slipping through the net and being forced into the position of litigant in person. It has recently been highlighted that even for those who still qualify for legal aid such as those that suffer domestic abuse or violence, it is still difficult to attain.
The Simpson Millar LLP Family Law Team has worked tirelessly to develop a Fixed Fee and DIY Service for its customers so justice is still affordable
for those that need it most. We also provide legal aid services for those that are eligible. A lack of access to justice is in itself an injustice that needs to be stopped and we will continue to lobby the government to make changes.