Access to justice? Litigants in person before and after LASPO
Reason for embargo
Under indefinite embargo due to publisher policy. The final version is available from Jordans.
Following the legal aid reforms introduced by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO), cases with at least one unrepresented party now form a large majority of private family law cases. In the third quarter of 2014 both parties were represented in only 24% of cases (Family Court Statistics Quarterly, MoJ, 2014). In this article we explore what this development might mean in practice, both for the litigants in person (LIPs) and for the courts. We draw on our recently published research for the Ministry of Justice to explore why people self-represent, how able litigants are to represent themselves and what impact LIPs have on the courts and other court users. Our main message is that some LIPs may well be able to cope with simple cases, especially with help from family justice professionals taking on tasks formerly performed by lawyers. However, there are significant issues of justice and efficiency with vulnerable LIPs, substantive hearings and/or complex cases and where there is no or limited additional support. We argue that significant reforms are required given that the family justice system predicated on a full-representation model now operates in a new reality where self-represented litigants are the norm.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Jordans