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Court of Appeal brands legal aid cuts a false economy

Court and judges' time wasted in cases without lawyers outweighs legal aid savings and runs the risk that correct results will not be reached, reports Catherine Baksi

11 February 2015

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Legal aid cuts are a false economy and run the risk of injustice, the Court of Appeal has said in a case where a litigant in person was left to grapple with 'technical and unusual' procedures without a solicitor.

Lindner v Rawlins [2015] EWCA Civ 61 concerned lengthy and protracted litigation, including a contested divorce. The respondent wife did not appear and was not represented and the appellant husband attended unrepresented.

Giving judgment, Lady Justice Black, said Lindner had presented his case 'courteously and as comprehensively as he could', but the fact that he was not represented meant that he had approached it on a 'mistaken basis'.

'The task that would normally have been fulfilled by the parties' legal representatives, of finding relevant documents amongst the material presented, and researching the law and its application to the facts of the case, had to be done by the judges of the Court of Appeal instead.

'This is not a satisfactory state of affairs as the time taken to attend to this is considerable and cannot be spared in what is already a very busy court,' said Black.

Agreeing, Lord Justice Aikens (pictured) said the appeal involved 'technical and unusual' procedures that the husband 'could not be expected to have mastered'.

Bemoaning the rise in litigants in person, he said: 'Yet again, the court was without any legal assistance and had to spend time researching the law for itself then attempting to apply it to the relevant facts in order to arrive at the correct legal answer.'

He said: 'To do the latter exercise meant that the court itself had to trawl through a large amount of documents in the file. All this involves an expensive use of judicial time, which is in short supply as it is.

'Money may have been saved from the legal aid funds, but an equal amount of expense, if not more, has been incurred in terms of the costs of judges' and court time.

'The result is that there is, in fact, no economy at all.'

Aikens added: 'Worse, this way of dealing with cases runs the risk that a correct result will not be reached because the court does not have the legal assistance of counsel that it should have and the court has no other legal assistance available to it.'

Categorised in:

Legal Aid Divorce Courts & Judiciary