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Legal representatives ‘a rarity’ in private law children cases

Rise in LiPs leads to more contested hearings, say judges

The Judicial Executive Board's evidence to the Commons Justice Select Committee's enquiry into the effect of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 has been published.

The Board, which comprises the most senior judges in England and Wales including the President of the Family Division, notes that the justice system has not developed with a focus on unrepresented litigants and is now faced with an unprecedented increase in their incidence.

The Board says that the judges' perception resonates strongly with the statistical analysis produced by the Ministry of Justice: the system is under great pressure. In private law family cases, legal representatives are now described by judges as "a rarity".

The Board also finds:

The Board's written submission is here.

Tony Roe, principal of Tony Roe Solicitors, solicitor & family law arbitrator, commented:

"This evidence from judges shows a large increase in the number of cases where one or both parties do not have legal representation, especially private law family litigation. This contradicts Ministry of Justice claims that the latest figures demonstrate family court performance is being maintained.

"The Judiciary's perception is that cases which might have settled are now often fully contested by litigants in person, requiring significantly more judicial involvement, causing delays. Increased delay in the family courts will inevitably lead to practitioners advising their clients to opt for family arbitration to achieve a speedier resolution, not to mention a confidential and flexible one."