Labour Party Annual Conference 2014


On the 21st of September, the Labour Party started it's annual Conference, the last one until the general elections in 2015. Some of the issues likely to be covered at this year's Conference include the future for the NHS, help for working people and the rising cost of living in the UK.

Cuts to Legal Aid Harm Family Justice

LASPO is Cutting Off Justice

Since the Coalition government have come to power, there have been a number of cuts to the UK budget including to legal aid. The Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) came into force in April 2013, and with it a number of legal cuts were made to public services. According to the current government's own figures, more than half a million people a year will be denied legal aid. In real terms, this means half a million vulnerable people are missing out on justice.

Family Law and Legal Aid

Legal aid has been removed for a multitude of things such as debt, family break up, education, medical negligence, housing, employment and immigration. In family law especially, legal aid only remains for those who are affected by or require help for the following:
  • Family mediation
  • Cases which involve social services and children
  • Cases involving a violent partner or family member
  • Forced marriage
Peaceful marches and protests have taken place up and down the country, condemning Chris Grayling's disastrous cuts. Judges have also entered the furore by slamming the cuts for pushing parents or ex-spouses into becoming litigants in person and representing themselves in court because they cannot afford a solicitor.

Both Emma Pearmaine and Emma Hopkins Jones have expressed their dismay at the cuts and the negative effects of LASPO. In a report by the Family Court Unions Parliamentary Group entitled "The impact of legal aid cuts on Family Justice" they both expressed their dismay at having to turn parents of children away because they are not eligible for legal aid help.

In February 2014, Simpson Millar LLP only opened 19 legal aid cases compared to 42 opened in February 2013 when legal aid was still available. On a month by month basis, we are unfortunately having to turn 50% of enquiries away because there simply is no funding to support their cases. A failure to access legal advice is sure to have a negative impact on the generation of children dealing with the aftermath of LASPO. For those that cannot get legal aid, they are representing themselves and Simpson Millar LLP have already seen more than 20% of our own cases in which the other party is a litigant in person. We are finding that because of LASPO and it's affects, private proceedings are taking on average 6 months, a long time for any child to wait for a situation to be resolved.

Even where domestic violence has occurred, due to the restrictive nature of the LASPO guidelines we are having to turn them away.

As a result of LASPO, not only are children missing out on growing up with one parent, victims of domestic violence are going unrepresented and possibly suffering more abuse.

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