The new laws which virtually wipe out access to publicly funded legal advice have now received Royal Assent. This means that it is no longer possible for most people to get access to lawyers unless they are wealthy. As I have said before, alternative schemes to increase access by no win no fee agreements have also been severely hit by the recent cuts.
The upshot of this is that people will not pursue legal claims or they will do it themselves as litigants in person. It is inevitable that there is going to be a massive increase in the number of people bringing their own claims. It is estimated that a case involving a litigant in person takes twice as long as a case involving lawyers. So, unless there is a huge drop in the numbers of cases there will be a doubling of work for court staff and judges. So will there be a big increase in the number of judges? No. At present there are no plans for any such increase.and it would certainly make the cutbacks a false economy - which it probably is anyway.
So the courts are going to become busier, slower and more expensive. If litigants cannot access legal advice then they will increasingly look to the courts for help.
To make matters worse there are now plans to restrict public access to Court Offices. If a person is bringing their own claim they can go to the office and get the right forms and lodge them there and then. The Court Offices have, for many years, opened between 10.00 and 4.00. Under the new plans they will open for just 2 hours between 11.00 and 1.00. If you can’t make it during those hours then tough.
So if you want to bring a claim you may not be able to use lawyers and will find it extremely hard to get to the court in person.
Is it just me or is this an all out attack on people’s rights to justice?
Is there a hope here that people will just give up and not bother?
We have a justice system of which we have been rightly proud. Many countries have copied and continue to copy our common law. Nobody would dare to suggest an abolition of that system. But if there isn’t equal access to that system regardless of means, then there seems little point in having it.
It is fair to say that solicitors will do all they can to help clients. But it won’t be easy and it is hoped that if the new regime does indeed send the courts into meltdown that the whole thing will be re-assessed.