Children's Commissioner's report shows how our justice system is failing children

24 Sep 2014

Resolution has welcomes the publication of the Children’s Commissioner’s Legal Aid Child Rights Impact Assessment, which highlights the profound impact the cuts to legal aid have had on children and young people in the justice system.

Jo Edwards, Chair of Resolution, says: “Since the cuts to family legal aid were introduced, Resolution has consistently argued that they are hurting the most vulnerable people in society. This report validates our concerns, highlighting the difficulties faced by children and young people going through the justice system without the support of legal aid: from facing the courts without representation, to dealing with their parents involved in protracted battles over their care arrangements without proper legal support.”

“The statistics from the Commissioner’s impact assessment show that the number of unrepresented parties in private family law cases has increased dramatically since the legal aid cuts. Resolution members have seen first-hand the damage this is doing to all parties involved in the family court process – delays, an escalation in conflict during cases and, in the worst cases, miscarriages of justice as people attempt to navigate a complex legal system on their own.”

The report also points to the failure of exceptional case funding as an adequate legal aid safety net for the people most in need of legal representation, something that Resolution has argued is one of the most serious flaws in the practical application of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act. The Impact Assessment reports that only 57 cases have been granted exceptional funding, compared to the 3,700 the Ministry of Justice expected.

The Ministry of Justice estimated when LASPO was introduced that up to 5% of some non-domestic violence financial provision and private law children cases, and up to 5% of most other private law family cases could be expected to secure funding under the new exceptional scheme for excluded cases.

Jo Edwards adds:

"Resolution believes that the bar has been set too high by the Lord Chancellor’s Exceptional Funding Guidance and that the Legal Aid Agency is taking an overly restrictive approach to granting funding or setting any precedents for funding.

"We call on the Government, in light of the Children’s Commissioner’s findings, to review urgently the operation of exceptional case funding to ensure that the most vulnerable people in our justice system, including children and young people, are getting the legal support they need."