Are Legal Aid cuts actually costing taxpayers money?
New government statistics show that the cuts to Legal Aid are causing more parents to represent themselves in court, seemingly costing taxpayers more money in the process.
New figures from the National Audit Office (NAO), the body which examines public spending on behalf of the UK Parliament, show that nearly twice the number of family law cases involving children are conducted by parents with no legal representation compared to last year.
The practical effect of this, according to the NAO, is that cases take 50% longer to conclude and therefore cost the taxpayer more money. This increased cost is estimated to be as much as £3.4 million per year.
The NAO report also stated the Ministry of Justice, in implementing the cuts, had not considered the wider impact of the changes on the legal system.
The Chair of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee described the Ministry of Justice as “out of touch with reality”.
The implementation of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 led to far-reaching cuts to Legal Aid for family law cases. Generally Legal Aid is now only available in cases where domestic violence can be shown by providing evidence from a prescribed list, e.g. a medical report or a police caution in the previous 24 months.
In a recent judgement the President of the Family Division, the most senior family law judge in England and Wales, Sir James Munby, criticised the government’s Legal Aid cuts which had left a couple with learning difficulties with no legal representation in an application by their Local Authority to put their child up for adoption outside the family.
You can find the executive summary and full report from the National Audit Office by visiting their website: National Audit Office – Imimplementing reforms to civil legal aid.