Stand up and take note Chris Grayling. The legal aid cuts are creating panic for the judiciary and we are not even halfway through the first month of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) bill.
The President of the Association of Her Majesty’s District Judges, District Judge Harold Godwin, has warned that the increasing numbers of litigants in person, coupled with the cuts to their remuneration package has left the judiciary’s morale at an all time low.
Judge Godwin, from Haverfordwest and Aberystwyth County Courts, said: “Nowadays district judges are often required not only to decide the outcome of a case but also, to tease out from the parties the issues, then establish the facts, ascertain the area of law involved and then determine the outcome following the statute and common law.
“The greater amount of time required now to dispatch individual cases is placing a greater burden upon judges and is increasing the weight of responsibility. All this at a time when the remuneration package of many younger judges are being savagely cut.”
The trouble the cutbacks are causing for the judiciary is certainly something that the government needs to take into account in relation to the expected decision to increase the small claims limit, as if this is implemented it will only serve to crank up the pressure even more by forcing more litigants in person to enter the courts.
Last month a High Court judge showed further evidence that the judiciary are not prepared to deal with the changes brought on by the Jackson reforms when he told parties in a clinical negligence case to ignore the Jackson reforms for at least six months in a clinical negligence case. His note stated that the two judges involved in clinical negligence would be ‘overloaded’ with case management hearings if all claims in the High Court were costs-managed, which would in turn lead to unacceptable delays.
Judge Godwin also added: “The forthcoming restrictions imposed upon the availability of legal aid threatens to have far reaching implications in the way civil and family cases are conducted that will, undoubtedly, place a greater burden than ever upon the judiciary of Wales and England although they will be overcome.”
1. Flickr; Chris Potter; https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/8213432552