The hidden cost of the removal of legal aid

Nicola Furmston

One of the hidden costs of the removal of legal aid is the cost to the party who can afford legal representation in producing evidence for the court that should, in fact, have been the responsibility of the unrepresented party.

It has always been necessary to produce bundles, sometimes vast in nature, of documents for the court for use at the eventual trial of a case. However, shortly after the removal of legal aid the rules were changed to require the applicant in the case to produce bundles for each and every court hearing. The increase in time, therefore cost, not to mention paper, has been vast.

The double whammy comes in that, although it is usually the applicant’s responsibility to do the bundles, where the applicant is unrepresented it becomes the responsibility of the respondent, if represented, to prepare the court bundles. This falls to the respondent’s solicitor, with the cost falling to the respondent.

The government was so committed to the principle of justice after WWII that it borrowed an enormous sum of money from the USA to set up the legal aid system. The changes in the system and new evidential rules represent an erosion of the principle.

Nicola Furmston is a solicitor specialising in the family field at Barker Gotelee, Solicitors in Ipswich.