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A former Family Court Judge has become the latest senior legal figure to criticise the cuts to legal aid which came into effect in April 2013. Crispin Masterman, who was a designated family judge for Cardiff and Pontypridd, told BBC Wales that, in his opinion, children were being damaged when their parents represented themselves in legal proceedings through the family courts without the benefit of legal advice from a qualified Family Law Solicitor.
In making his comments, Mr Masterman joined a growing list of judges, magistrates and lawyers who have criticised the provisions of The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.
The act, which removed legal aid support from a range of family law matters, including most divorce proceedings, has been blamed for slowing down cases going through the family courts, where, over half of all the parties were now unrepresented by a Family Law Solicitor.
Currently, legal aid is only available in cases where there is proven evidence of domestic violence or for cases where parents are challenging care orders that have been imposed by a local authority.
Speaking about the effects that the removal of legal aid in the vast majority of family law cases has had, Mr Masterman said taking trained professional Family Law Solicitors “out of the equation” had meant there were more contested court hearings and more delays in resolving cases.
He went on to say that; "The Children Act says that the welfare of the child is paramount in these cases, which is a given. But it also says delay is the enemy of a child's best interests, and so anything which means that the resolution of a child's interests takes longer, must be damaging to the child."
Here at Canter Levin & Berg, we’ve spoken out on numerous occasions against the cuts to legal aid in family law cases, Matthew Rogan, one of our Family Law Solicitors echoed the sentiments of other professionals who have commented on this issue, saying:
“When Legal Aid was removed from the majority of Private Family Law cases last April, Judges and Lawyers were keen to express their fears about the changes being to the detriment of those children involved.”
“Sadly those fears have now become a reality. It is likely that there is an even more disproportionate impact on the country’s most vulnerable children from its poorest areas in that their parents are less likely to be able to afford private legal assistance”
For fixed-fee legal advice on Family Law matters from professional solicitors, call Canter Levin & Berg now on 0151 239 1000.