The possibility that the law applicable in Wales differs from that in England has become a reality, a leading judge said today, warning of gaps in access to justice in the country. 

Giving the Law Society’s Annual Lecture at the National Eisteddfod, His Honour Judge Milwyn Jarman QC (pictured) said: ‘The possibility that the law applicable in Wales differs from that in England has become a reality.

'To give just a few examples, the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 introduces a new regime of registration for landlords of private property in Wales. The Renting Homes Bill provides for a much-simplified system for renting private residences.'

The judge said demand for legal services in Wales is likely to increase, at a time when there is already unmet demand for some services and the number of lawyers and law firms in Wales is falling.

Jarman warned of a lack of access to justice following legal aid cuts and civil litigation reforms, adding that some criminal lawyers are now looking to retrain in other areas.

Jarman said it is becoming increasingly difficult to provide full bilingual police and criminal court services in some rural areas.

‘In Wales, such factors as poor transport links, deprivation in post-industrial and other communities, large distances between communities in rural areas, and the language issue give rise to particular concerns.’

Saying he could not give a view on the need for a formal separate jurisdiction, 'this development, if it is to take place, is unlikely to do so for a number of years'. In the meantime: 'Whether it does so or not the citizens of Wales are entitled to expect effective access to justice and to legal services.' 

Jarman noted that 11 Welsh courts are set to close as part of the government's review of the courts estate and he urged 'great care' in making decisions which will improve access to justice for rural communities.

'Even where there are frequent public transport services available in such areas, and in many areas of Wales they are not, it is not always affordable by the most disadvantaged in society.'