Could you be entitled to Legal Aid in the future?
In 2012, as a result of pressure to reduce public spending, the government introduced the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) which set out new guidelines for Legal Aid and the funding of legal services.
The outcome was to remove individual entitlement to Legal Aid in all private family law matters unless there had been reported instances of domestic violence. Legal Aid now only remains in circumstances such as applications for non-molestation orders (injunction), occupation orders and registering home rights. Legal Aid remains available for mediation associated with family disputes if a means test is satisfied.
For many people this limited their ability to obtain legal representation and unfortunately has meant that some people have had to represent themselves in Court as litigants in person or decide not to make applications to Court. Their access to justice has been affected.
Is Change Likely?
The Bach Commission carried out a two year examination of the Legal Aid provisions and spoke to over 100 individuals and organisations to assess the impact that the current Legal Aid provisions have on access to justice in private family law proceedings and other areas of law.
A report has recently been released, The Right to Justice. It concludes that the current restrictions on qualifying for Legal Aid are not fair for the majority of individuals seeking access to the private family law system.
The report recommends the creation of a new Right to Justice Act to change the criteria for receiving Legal Aid and recommends that those who receive a means tested benefit should be eligible for Legal Aid. Those who do not receive means tested benefits should undergo a simple assessment of their gross household income, taking into consideration an allowance based on the number of children in the household.
There are also recommendations to reinstate Legal Aid in sensitive areas of private family law, for example where the primary care of a child is in dispute.
The Right to Justice Report is only a recommendation report; however, its release is encouraging and gives hope to affected individuals that review and reform of the current Legal Aid provisions may be on the horizon.
If you require advice or assistance in relation to family law matters at Jordans Solicitors we have a dedicated family lawyer team who can help. Please dial 01924 387 110 and ask to speak with a member of the family law team or visit our website at www.jordanssolicitors.co.uk and request a callback.