It could be an important week for the future of family law in the UK, with the High Court set to commence a judicial review which might have a significant impact on the way the government’s cuts to legal aid are implemented.
Family lawyers have largely been unanimous is their criticism of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) and its various consequences, including the Exceptional Case Funding scheme, which, lawyers claim, still falls some way short of protecting those “exceptional cases” that should have access to funding.
Solicitors say that the effect is the creation of clear inequalities in access to justice; with vulnerable parties, such as domestic violence victims, those most adversely affected. Under the terms of LASPO, an exceptional case is defined as one in which absence of legal representation might qualify as a breach of human rights.
But now the High Court is set to hear the case of an unnamed person, who is identified only as “IS”, who will be represented by family lawyers from the legal charity Public Law Project. They say that the Exceptional Case Funding scheme has no grounds in law and far from actually increasing access to justice to those in need it actually prevents them from being able to enforce their legal rights.
The lawyers claim that the scheme provides no real incentives for solicitors to pursue the claims of vulnerable people and that the “application process is long drawn out, complex and time consuming”.
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