Cuts in Legal Aid Budget Means More Forced to Represent Themselves…
With a proposed £350 million to be taken from the legal aid budget in 2013 – the British legal system is preparing for an influx of ‘litigants-in-person’, or individuals representing themselves. The legal aid bill sets out to provide those who can’t afford legal representation – mostly in criminal and personal injury cases - with funds to cover court costs. The amount of assistance it will be able to provide is set to fall over the coming years – forcing people to represent themselves.
Held in low regard by judges and solicitors, so called ‘DIY lawyers’ can cause havoc to the legal system due to their lack of knowledge of judicial conventions and little awareness of court procedure.
A report due tomorrow will outline how the plan to minimise the impact on the courts – one of its main features suggested providing more legally experienced volunteers such as law students and retired and unemployed lawyers to help self representing individuals. Currently, charities such as the Personal Support Unit (PSU) provide legal help in the way of volunteers to those who do not qualify for legal aid – a factor that is set to rise in the coming years.
Speaking on behalf of the PSU, Judith March believes that they will still be able to continue such support: ”When we advertised for assistance in Manchester recently we had 200 students from the local law schools turn up”
Another effect of the diminishing legal aid budget will be a drastic fall in the amount of pro bono work carried out by lawyers. A spring survey by the Law Society revealed that pro bono work had been carried out by just under half of all private practice lawyers in the UK – amounting to around 55 hours each. Their are fears though that with cuts, lawyers will no longer be able to afford doing uncompensated work for as many hours.