I agree wholeheartedly with the concerns expressed by Gerald Cumming (letters, 2 June).
I had a client who had to pursue contact through the court. A couple of years after separation and a clear police check by Cafcass, his ex-partner persuaded the police to make a referral for domestic violence and applied for legal aid on the back of this. The ‘ex’ was not agreeable to any interim contact and, with no corroborating evidence whatsoever, made a number of serious and distasteful allegations against my client, who had to fund the action privately.
On the day of the final hearing, she withdrew her allegations and an order was made by consent; it might be surmised that the referral and allegations were put forward to justify legal aid funding, so that the ex did not herself have to incur any expense.
I have another matter: my last remaining legal aid case. The proceedings have been going on for nearly two years. The ex has always opposed contact and indeed has admitted as much in the last statement served. The court has attached a penal notice to the latest order for indirect contact and the ex’s barrister informally told ours that we would probably end up having to make an application, because their client had no intention of making the child available for contact.
My client is unemployed and could not afford to pay privately. They do not drive and so have to rely upon the generosity of friends to get to court, which is in the Midlands. Moreover, the client is dyslexic. With the best will in the world, if they did not have legal aid they would have little chance of representing themselves and securing a contact order.
The playing field is lopsided. The overriding objective of ensuring the parties are on an equal footing is not being met.
Martin Curnow, Paul Finn Solicitors, Bude, Cornwall