MPs Issue Legal Aid Cuts Warning

MPs Issue Legal Aid Cuts Warning

PRESS ASSOCIATION -- Courts will have to change to cope with more people representing themselves in emotionally-charged cases following the Government's cuts to legal aid, MPs have said.

It is "inevitable" that parents are unlikely to give up applications for contact, residence or maintenance for their children simply because they have no access to public funding, said the Commons Justice Select Committee.

The family courts will see an increase in litigants in person and the Ministry of Justice "does not appear to have appreciated that this is the inevitable outcome of the legal aid reforms", the MPs said.

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke plans to cut legal aid for most private family law cases, clinical negligence, employment, immigration, some debt and housing issues, some education cases and welfare benefits.

The legal aid system in England and Wales is one of the most expensive in the world as it encourages lengthy, acrimonious and sometimes unnecessary court proceedings at taxpayers' expense, he said.

The Government is encouraging people to use mediation to resolve their disputes instead.

Sir Alan Beith, the committee's chairman, said: "Many family disputes could be better dealt with by mediation than in a court.

"However, there will still be cases which go to court and there will be significantly more litigants in person following changes to legal aid. Courts are going to have to make adjustments to cope with more people representing themselves in what are often emotionally charged cases."

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: "We recognise there will always be risks for anyone who chooses to bring a case by themselves and so are improving the information and support available to them.

"But we also want people to be aware of their options so they can choose the most suitable way forward, which will not always be to take legal action."

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