Since the decimation of legal aid, there have been steadily increasing cries of pain from district judges about the proliferation of litigants in person. LiPs are able to access the courts, mainly with applications about family disputes, because they can claim exemption from court fees.
Referring back to the days when lawyers routinely saw most of those LiPs under legal aid, I have long argued that by assisting them – free at the point of access of course – we were able to solve many family problems and prevent the vast majority from reaching court.
This work, skilful and worthy as it was, came at a cost to the public purse – albeit, I would argue, at a very cheap rate. The average cost was about £200 per case or less. Nevertheless, it would appear that the government considered it no longer affordable.
Instead we have the spectacle of every potential litigant, unable to obtain legal help or guidance, left with no alternative but to apply directly to the court.
This must cost a small fortune in judge’s time, not to mention court overheads, and all free at the point of access. Where is the overall saving?
At the risk of causing offence, might I suggest that many of these LiPs are able to afford some modest fee for the privilege of direct access to a judge’s expertise?
If a fee were to be introduced – no doubt on a sliding scale – I would guess that timewasters and those in it simply to score points against a partner (a considerable number) would soon be weeded out.
District judges would heave a sigh of relief and again be able to get on with proper work in a civilised atmosphere.
John Greenwood, Chippenham, Wilts