Since considerable anxiety is felt by senior judges and legal professionals over the effect legal aid cuts will have on family cases and the children themselves.
Cuts to legal aid will mean that some parents/guardians will have no choice but to represent themselves in court if savings aren’t made elsewhere. When amateurs oppose experienced solicitors in court, a fair trial is rarely pursued as the counterpart with legal representation would often have the upper hand of experience. Ultimately, the decision should be made with regards to the child’s welfare, rather than which party has the most money. A recent survey suggests that nearly half (48%) of cases where a party is representing themselves in court, takes twice as long. It has also emerged that the ‘knock on’ costs to the legal aid cuts is expected to cost the taxpayer in excess of £139m, nearly half of what the cuts are expected to save. It is estimated that 595,000 members of the public will endeavour to proceed through the courts without legal aid.
Care applications have risen by 10.1 per cent since last year according to CAFCASS – an organisation committed to providing support to families involved in childcare cases. This means that family difficulties are on the increase and so cuts to the system will have a detrimental effect on family units for years to come. Areas that will no longer be eligible for legal aid include clinical negligence, debt, employment, education, housing, immigration, welfare and family breakdown, whilst cases the government considers serious such as domestic violence and child abuse will remain covered under legal aid. Although these problems are known to coincide as family breakdowns result in homelessness, domestic violence and other problems. But in reality things aren’t as linear; people experience a variety of issues that they cannot afford to deal with in court on their own, nor can they afford to ignore the problems.
David Atkinson, CEO for Atkinson Lewis and has worked in the field for 15 years spoke about the threat of cuts to legal aid “It seems as though the legal aid cuts will have a detrimental effect on everybody involved in the child protection system but at a time of cuts and economic decline, we should be taking the time to analyse where savings can be made, with minimum effect to the public.”
He goes on to say “Often parents and guardians are at ‘war’ with one another and it is possible that some parents will resort to taking the law in to their own hands.”
Cuts to legal aid can be made extraneous if more effort was made to reduce unnecessary costs which technology can play its part in reducing.
Furthermore, the Crown Prosecution Service is also facing 25 per cent cuts over the next four years which has lead to the introduction of tablet PC’s to the entire criminal justice system, estimated to save approximately £50m across England and Wales. Atkinson Lewis believes this could be rolled across the family courts to contribute to savings which could enable legal aid funding to continue. The UK has long been considered as a centre for legal excellence and so it is expected to exceed the practices that are used within the legal system elsewhere. Other services like virtual courts will save time and resources for the courts, the legal system and the police which will effectively outcome in savings. ‘Live links’ enables court hearings to stream live video footage which can be used for witnesses, experts and clients without the need for transport and premise needs. Atkinson Lewis is now operating video conferencing facilities which are open for business.
Whilst most law firms are still using traditional surface mail services, many are discovering the cost and time efficiencies of working with new technology, rather than relying on traditional paper court bundles and couriers known to take several weeks. The legal sector as a whole should prioritise time efficiencies and security over everything else. Moreover, this technology considerably reduces a company’s overheads.
As a result, EDT by Atkinson Lewis is a secure file encryption software system, designed specifically for the use of professionals involved in childcare cases. It is a cost effective, efficient and an environmentally friendly alternative to surface mail services. There is no need to wait for delivery windows as information can be retrieved and sent instantaneously. The basements of law firms are often heaving with court bundles and documents. Days are spent keeping track of this mass of information which is often incorrectly duplicated and distributed.
Media Contact Details
Name: Kathryn Powell
Company Name: Atkinson Lewis
Country: Wales, U
Telephone Number: 01792 578623148