The Family Justice Review Final Report (The Norgrove Report) is out. It contains a wide-ranging set of proposals but given my interest in legal aid and litigants in person, and the limited time I have had to look at it, I’ll concentrate on those issues. The timing of publication is interesting given the main House of Commons over debate over legal aid reforms has been and gone. Norgrove makes measured but telling criticisms of the legal aid proposals:
- The number of litigants in person in private law proceedings will rise becoming more acute.
- Legal aid reform may militate against the desired aims of the Review (and Government): less delay and more mediation.
- “The supply of properly qualified family lawyers is vital to the protection of children.” It is noted that the cuts in private family law funding are likely to reduce the supply of such lawyers (it cannot realistically be otherwise). There is also likely to be a knock on reduction on the supply of lawyers doing publicly funded care work (an important point, well made).
- “Our recommendations on process should improve the situation mainly by helping more people to stay out of court, but they are by no means a full answer”
The word acute is the most important one alongside the emphasised need for proper monitoring of the impact of the proposed legal aid cuts. This might be sophisticated civil servant speak for, “There’s a fast train coming…. better get us off them tracks.” One would not need to be too cynical to suggest the timing of the report’s release by the MoJ may berelated to the timing of the LASPO debate in the House of Commons. Let us hope that the House of Lords take note.