Today I experienced the financial savvy of the Ministry of Justice first-hand. Appearing in custody before the magistrates’ court for breach of a non-molestation order was a 22-year-old building site labourer. This had come about as a result of his ex-fiancee alleging domestic violence and therefore obtaining legal aid for a family lawyer to apply for the said order.
However, under the same reduced civil legal aid scheme, he is no longer eligible for any legal aid assistance. As such, he represented himself, the order was granted on an interim basis and the judge told him that he has to sort out the contact arrangements for their young son, who was living with the mother. Again, there is no longer any civil legal aid to help him with this and he is unable to pay privately. So, what does he do to arrange contact with his son? He tries to deal with it himself and starts texting the mother – in breach of the non-molestation order.
In the interests of financial efficiency, a marginal civil legal aid saving has been achieved by denying the young man legal aid – balanced against the cost of the police investigation, the cost of him being detained, the cost of the magistrates’ court in dealing with the matter and the cost of the Crown Prosecution Service preparing the case. And (because he has a fair chance of a defence of having reasonable grounds before a jury), the cost of criminal legal aid for both a litigator and an advocate, further cost for CPS preparation and the cost of a trial in the Crown court.
The family proceedings, by the way, still need to be finalised. He will continue to represent himself, without any ability to reach an agreement outside court for not being able to contact the mother and so needing more time in the family court to thrash things out.
The taxpayer can rest easy knowing that the government is taking such care in managing unnecessary waste.
Dieter Kehler, DB Law, Camborne