A manifesto for family justice

News Release

24 Oct 2011

An alliance of organisations which represents the rights and needs of women, children, families and victims of domestic abuse and/or are engaged in the administration of family justice, has published a Manifesto for Family Justice, ahead of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Bill moving into Report Stage in the House of Commons.

The alliance, which comprises the Association of Lawyers for Children, the Bar Council, CAADA, the Children's Commissioner, the Family Law Bar Association, Gingerbread, Liberty, the National Federation of Women's Institutes, Resolution and Women's Aid, has called upon the Government to:

* Protect vulnerable women and children

* Listen to the experienced practitioners who work in family justice and who understand that mediation, whilst beneficial in many cases, will not resolve many others, and

* Consider with care whether the decision to remove legal aid from private family law cases will save the Government money or, in fact, cost more and lead to poor outcomes.

The Manifesto has been sent to all Members of Parliament as the House of Commons prepares to consider further the changes to legal aid proposed in the LASPO Bill.

The Chairman of the Family Law Bar Association, Stephen Cobb QC, said:

"We have come together as a broad cross section of organisations deeply concerned by the consequences of the Government's proposals. The Prime Minister stated that he wanted a family test for all domestic policy. Clearly nobody has applied that test to this Bill. The civil legal aid cuts will be bad for children, bad for women and bad for families.

"We are facing a disturbing new landscape in which 600,000 people will no longer receive legal aid, 68,000 children will be affected by the removal of legal aid in family cases, 54,000 fewer people will be represented in the family courts annually and 75% of existing private family law cases will no longer attract legal aid. When the Government consulted on these proposals, virtually no-one supported them.

"We will see an increasing number of people going to court on their own without representation. That is DIY justice, not access to justice. We face the very real prospect that many children and women who have been victims of domestic abuse will have to endure the further trauma of being cross-examined by their alleged perpetrator, who will not be eligible for legal aid.

"It is not too late for the Government to change its approach. If it really has the interests of families in mind, then it has to think again."


Notes to editors:

1. For further information, please contact the Bar Council Press Office on 020 7222 2525.

2. The Bar Council represents barristers in England and Wales. It promotes:

* The Bar's high quality specialist advocacy and advisory services

* Fair access to justice for all

* The highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across the profession, and

* The development of business opportunities for barristers at home and abroad.

The General Council of the Bar is the Approved Regulator of the Bar of England and Wales. It discharges its regulatory functions through the independent Bar Standards Board (http://www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/).

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