Monthly Archives: October 2014

LEGAL AID REFORM REVIEW ‘LONG OVERDUE’, SAYS TEESSIDE FAMILY LAW EXPERT

Alison Lynch

Alison Lynch, Cygnet Law Associate Solicitor

A Tees Valley law firm is backing Ministerial calls for a review after research showed that children were being failed by the family court system in the wake of legal aid reforms.

Family Justice Minister Simon Hughes has called for an urgent review of the impact of the changes on children’s rights.

This follows a recent report by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner that found 70 percent of cases involving children have lacked legal representation since the legal aid reforms.

The first in-depth rights-based examination of the impact of Legal Aid changes on children since 2013 showed that in 70 percent of private family cases one or both parties did not have legal representation compared with 54 percent who had it previously.

Alison Lynch, Cygnet Law Associate Solicitor, said: “This call for a review is a long overdue announcement.  Outcomes for children have been greatly disadvantaged following the legal aid changes in April 2013 and are storing up long-term problems for the future stability of family life.

“Cygnet Law is dedicated to promoting the rights of families and in particular getting it ‘right’ for children.

“Behind these statistics lie tragic stories involving children and vulnerable young adults whose lives are likely to have been adversely affected by not being able to access the legal representation they desperately need and deserve.

“We hope that a review is instigated and that it leads to the reversal of the legal aid decision.”

The report, which studied the withdrawal of legal aid from most family cases in April 2013, found that nearly three-quarters of private family cases involve one or both parties without legal representation.

It said: “Although ‘exceptional funding’ was meant to be available in cases where failure to fund could infringe the applicant’s rights under the Human Rights Act 1998 or under EU law, in practice this requires complex preparatory work, impractical for a child without a solicitor
 
“Only 57 cases were granted exceptional funding compared to the 3,700 the Ministry of Justice expected.”

Alison Lynch is an expert in all aspects of Children Law. She is a member of the Law Society Children Panel and is regularly instructed in complex disputes on behalf of both parents and children. She has a particular interest in surrogacy and international relocation. Alison is a highly experienced and determined advocate both within and outside the courtroom setting.

ENDS