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Government's legal aid cuts will harm women and children, says national meeting of family barristers

Chairman of the Bar Council addresses Lib Dems about cuts

The Bar Council and the Family Law Bar Association (FLBA) hosted a national meeting of the family Bar on Saturday, 17th September, to warn of the effects of the Government's intended justice cuts.

The meeting, attended by the Attorney General, the Rt. Hon. Dominic Grieve QC MP took place in London and was linked by video conference to venues around the country. It focused on the Government's proposals, contained within the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, to cut large areas of family law from the scope of legal aid.

Stephen Cobb QC, Chairman of the FLBA, said:

"If the Government pushes through its proposed cuts to legal aid, the future for family justice looks bleak. This is not a matter of lawyers bemoaning further fee cuts: we have the support of a number of voluntary organisations representing women, children and victims of domestic abuse. These reforms will result in 54,000 fewer people represented in the family courts annually, affecting 68,000 children at the centre of traumatic family breakdown.

"The court system will be placed under considerable strain as unrepresented individuals, some suffering from mental health problems and the effects of domestic abuse, attempt to represent themselves in court, in some cases opposite experienced lawyers. Vulnerable children face the prospect of being cross-examined by their allegedly abusive parent.

"The Government's assertion that more cases will be resolved by mediation is not borne out by the experience of senior lawyers and judges. Only three per cent of those who responded to the legal aid consultation supported these proposals. We urge the Government to think again."

Peter Lodder QC, Chairman of the Bar Council, spoke at a fringe event, hosted by the Liberal Democrat Lawyers' Association, on Sunday evening, 18 September, and encouraged Liberal Democrat party members to hold the party to account on the Coalition's legal aid policy.