The Ministry of Justice’s announcement today of £3.1m to support litigants in person is a positive step, and I welcome any effort to assist those without legal representation in court and the many brilliant organisations helping to support those in need navigate the justice system.
But the extra funding should be viewed in its proper context – as a sticking plaster for a system that has sustained a very serious injury. Their can be no pride in a justice system that forces those without private means to self-represent, and the decimation of legal aid under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) has led to significant increases in litigants in person. The very fact that funding was needed to cope with the number of litigants in person is a damning indictment of a broken system.
Within a well-functioning, properly funded legal system, access to justice should be available to all – today’s announcement falls well short of achieving that goal.