Saturday, 2 October 2010

Family Law and legal aid .... do families not bleed?

The High Court has quashed the tendering process used by the Legal Services Commission to award legal aid contracts to family law firms - see Law Society and Law Society Gazette.  See also the earlier post on Law and Lawyers.   Unfortunately, this is likely to be akin to winning a skirmish whilst eventually losing the war.  The government plans to turn the Legal Services Commission into an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice - (Guardian 3rd March).  There is little doubt that the objective will remain to reduce the number of legal aid firms practising in this area.  Arguments that vulnerable children may well suffer appear to cut no ice.

The Times 30th September, published an article by Camilla Cavendish - "If we cut legal aid, do families not bleed?"  Cavendish pointed to a care case relating to three children in which Coventry City Council had pressed ahead with proceedings but eventually had to admit that it lacked evidence to support its claims.  After hearing an application brought by the BBC, the judge ordered that the Council could be named.  In an earlier judgment on the case (here), the judge noted that costs were approaching £400,000 and this was a matter of concern when the children were "happy, settled and, within the bounds of what is possible in the confines of their overcrowded home, well cared for".  The family could not have defended itself without legal aid used wisely by a good lawyer.

High Court rules family contract round unlawful - Solicitors Journal 30th September 2010.

Coventry City Council v X, Y and Z (Care Proceedings: Costs: Identification of Local Authority) [2010] EWHC B22 (Fam) 

Addendum 18th October:  The judgment of the High Court quashing the tender process is at Law Society v Legal Services Commission [2010] EWHC 2550 (Admin).

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