Legal Aid and Political Power

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Simpson Millar LLP is no stranger to highlighting the strain that has been put on the legal system since legal aids cuts came into effect in May 2013. Now, Lord Justices have waded into the debate and given their views on how the scrapping of legal aid has affected their jobs.

Judges speak up

Court of Appeal

Comments about the state of legal aid were made in the Court of Appeal by Lady Justice Black, Lady Justice King and Lord Justice Aikens following a divorce dispute in which the husband was unrepresented by a legal team and neither was the wife. The wife, in fact, did not show up to court at all.

The judges, and the legal profession as a whole, are concerned that valuable judicial time is being taken up by judges doing work that is usually undertaken by legal representatives before they get to the courtroom.

All the judges made it clear that their observations were "in no way a criticism of the husband who presented his case in a courteous way" but just by the nature of him being unrepresented, he had "approached it on a mistaken basis."

Ideas Not New

Greg Moss, a Simpson Millar LLP family and children law solicitor with almost 30 years of experience commented on the case. "The idea that the cuts to legal aid would simply result in additional costs elsewhere in the system is not new, and was indeed predicted by many at the time." Despite this, the government went ahead, resulting in millions being unable to access the tools of justice for themselves.

When asked about the political impact of the cuts, Greg continued, "Labour has already confirmed that should it come to power the cuts will not be reversed, neatly demonstrating how political agendas change depending on whether a party is in power or in opposition."

In the current climate, there is no guarantee that legal aid will return. Law firms must adapt to allow everyone who requires legal advice to have access to it. In Family Law for example, Simpson Millar LLP have developed affordable, efficient fixed fee divorce, financial dispute and children's law packages to help those that cannot afford traditional legal services.

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