"Raphael Rowe meets the parents fighting for access to their children without any legal assistance. Cuts to legal aid mean they must prepare their own cases and represent themselves in court. As senior members of the judiciary warn these cuts have undermined the principle of equal access to the law, the man who made them tells Panorama the British legal aid gravy train had to be stopped."
I thought it a huge missed opportunity, sadly. The programme was disjointed, with misleading or inaccurate information. But it did at least get people talking and raising awareness of the issues people face when they can not afford legal assistance - which, in turn, emphasises and highlights the need for Wikivorce so that people can access free help, advice, information and support.
I watched the Panorama programme with astonishment. My ex wife has obtained legal Aid (by fraudulent means I''m sure). She is living in the family home that I paid off, getting all the household bills paid by me, and getting nearly £500 a month for one 12 year old (that''s another story!. Whilst I lodge with my parents. I divorced her for infidelity shall we say. The property / finance part is now the hideous hurdle for me. I cannot prove anything as the Legal Aid agency cannot fall foul of data protection. The program showed how LA is very hard to get and is set aside for spouses who are victims of domestic abuse. I have not abused my ex in 23 years together, so there is no evidence whatsoever, and yet she seems to have easily managed to get full public funding. Even my solicitor does not know how she did it. Last year my then wife falsely applied for a non molestation and occupation order against me which my solicitor said she was simply trying to get legal aid out of it. She backed out of it a week before the contested hearing as my bundle of evidence made a mockery of hers. Now she has got it by some other means, I''m devastated. She is not ill or disabled, has chosen not to work for over 12 years and is still early 40''s. I''m £19000 down the line and all for a scorned woman who is behaving abominably and the authorities seem to allow it. Anyone any thoughts?
contact the legal aid yourself and make a complaint and ask them to question why she has been assigned legal aid.
There doesn''t need to be an order relating to domestic violence, have a look at the qualifying reasons and several do not require an order or the police to have intervened.
The issue with someone fighting for child access is that there is no chance of them getting any money and being able to pay the legal aid back whereas in your case the legal aid people will put a charge on the property or allow her to pay it back when she can.
Why is it a bad thing though that she has go legal aid as it mean''s she''s not presenting in person, the case would still go ahead anyway and either you or your solicitor has someone with some knowledge of the law to communicate with.
DIY journalism. I agree that this very poorly researched and presented programme was a missed opportunity. Litigants in person often misunderstand that they have to represent themselves - they cannot be represented by a McKenzie, by their father and certainly not by an expert witness, as the programme implied. They must become, in effect, their own lawyer and their own legal researcher. Also contrary to the programme''s implied circumstance, there are plenty of resources which can help an LiP, including Wikivorce. No one has to go to court without assistance. If the programme makers had spent as much time researching as they did on their little model of what appeared to be a criminal court it would have been much more useful and accurate.
To put a slightly different slant on this - a person represents themselves in court unless they choose to appoint a lawyer to act in their stead, subject to their being able to afford/procure the services of a lawyer.
We are currently in a period of transition where legal services are being withdrawn and people have no choice but to self-represent. However, the resources to help litigants in person are just not ''there''.
I attended a course at the beginning of 2014 in relation to new course rules and the subject of litigants in person was up for discussion.
The presenter, a judge who provides tuition to other judges, had advised the Ministry of Justice to set aside a fund to prepare documents and YouTube presentations to assist litigants in person e.g. "how to address a judge when in court" and "what you need to put in your Section 25 statement".
Obviously the fund was not made available but as time goes on more resources will be available. This is a bitter pill to swallow for those who are within or embarking upon court proceedings.