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24 October 2011

Justice for families? I don't think so

Mahie Abey
Sometimes you read something and you think to yourself – I completely agree and I can’t improve on it. I saw the following on Family Law Week today:
'An alliance of organisations which represents the rights and needs of women, children, families and victims of domestic abuse and/or are engaged in the administration of family justice, has published a Manifesto for Family Justice, ahead of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Bill moving into Report Stage in the House of Commons. 
Th[e] alliance …comprises the Association of Lawyers for Children, the Bar Council, CAADA, the Children's Commissioner, the Family Law Bar Association, Gingerbread, Liberty, the National Federation of Women's Institutes, Resolution and Women's Aid…
The Chairman of the Family Law Bar Association, Stephen Cobb QC, said:
"We have come together as a broad cross section of organisations deeply concerned by the consequences of the Government's proposals. The Prime Minister stated that he wanted a family test for all domestic policy. Clearly nobody has applied that test to this Bill. The civil legal aid cuts will be bad for children, bad for women and bad for families. 
We are facing a disturbing new landscape in which 600,000 people will no longer receive legal aid, 68,000 children will be affected by the removal of legal aid in family cases, 54,000 fewer people will be represented in the family courts annually and 75% of existing private family law cases will no longer attract legal aid. When the Government consulted on these proposals, virtually no-one supported them. 
We will see an increasing number of people going to court on their own without representation. That is DIY justice, not access to justice. We face the very real prospect that many children and women who have been victims of domestic abuse will have to endure the further trauma of being cross-examined by their alleged perpetrator, who will not be eligible for legal aid. 
It is not too late for the Government to change its approach. If it really has the interests of families in mind, then it has to think again."’
Brilliant quote from Stephen Cobb, which sums up what I and many family lawyers think about the government’s proposed changes to family justice. The government really must be made to think again.

You can read the Manifesto for Family Law Justice here.