Action promised on increasing litigants in person
16th Oct 2014
Simon Hughes, Justice Minister, has promised that the government will take action on the growing number of litigants in person, and the issues it raises.
In a speech to the Liberal Democrat party conference in Glasgow, Hughes stated that the government will announce their plans to tackle the issues of unrepresented people in court within weeks. He noted that he had persuaded his colleagues at the Ministry of Justice to find a solution to the problem. The announcement should happen before Christmas, and will affect all civil courts.
It follows much controversy over the cuts to legal aid over the past year and a half. Hughes also suggested that the changes would also make it easier to apply for ‘exceptional funding’, which was launched as a safety net for cases who did not meet legal aid requirements but still needed the funding. The difficulty in obtaining exceptional funding has been heavily criticised in recent weeks.
Despite his words, the Liberal Democrats sided with the other main parties in stating that legal aid provision would not be restored as there are no extra funds available.
Hughes acknowledged the difficulties, but hoped more support could be available to those who need it, without having to use lawyers. He expressed his wish that ‘irrespective of funding’, everyone could be given the chance to talk through their issues before heading to court. He also stated that the problem of litigants in person is not singular to family cases, but is a growing problem across all areas of the law.
During the conference, Hughes also took the opportunity to distinguish between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives on the matter of human rights legislation, which the Tory party has vowed to scrap. Promising that the Lib Dems would continue to block attempts to create a new bill of rights to replace the Human Rights Act, as they have done since 1998, Hughes stated that ‘we will always stand up for human rights’.