The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (Laspo) has now received Royal Assent which means that in April 2013 the Government can press on with the biggest cutbacks and reform in Legal Aid that the profession have ever known.
What is of more concern is that those who are eligible for Legal Aid at the moment will not be in April. Legal Aid is being withdrawn for those seeking Family Law advice and representation in Private Law Disputes, Divorce and Matrimonial Finances even though they may be in receipt of a low income and would at the moment be financially eligible.
Only those that have suffered Domestic Violence will be eligible from April for assistance in private law disputes. Legal Aid will however remain for parents in Children Act proceedings where the Local Authority (Social Services) have applied for a Public Law Order (for example a Care Order).
Gemma Iceton Partner of Carr & Co who has lobbied MP’s, sent Press Releases in an attempt to raise public awareness and petitioned against the proposals commented:
“It is very worrying for the public who are in receipt of low income and simply cannot afford to pay for a Solicitor that the majority of them will no longer qualify for Legal Aid. Whilst the Government listened to some concerns regarding the fact that people suffering Domestic Violence should have access to Legal Aid they have suggested that they will need to provide independent evidence of such abuse. Many sufferers suffer in silence and I can be their first port of call. It is extremely worrying that I will not be able to help them without them having a letter from a GP or other evidence.
The many parents of children, grandparents and other family members that I act for in private disputes along with those requiring matrimonial finances to be resolved will no longer be eligible for Legal Aid from April (unless there are allegations of Domestic Violence).
The profession is currently waiting for full details on the new Legal Aid contract which is due to start in April but we are all concerned that the majority of the public in receipt of low income will no longer have access to justice.”
Carr & Co suggests that Anyone thinking of obtaining Legal Aid should act now….before it is too late. contact us for an appointment.