How will the courts cope with more litigants-in-person?

The UK’s civil courts are likely to be inundated with people fighting their own personal injury compensation cases when the government’s legal aid funding cuts come into force.

People representing themselves are known as litigants-in-person and they are usually amongst the most vulnerable members of society. Going to court without the services of a qualified personal injury lawyer or medical negligence solicitor can be a harrowing experience and on expert has described such people as “unexploded bombs”.

Later this month, the government is publishing a bill which will withdraw professional support for medical negligence claims, as well as debt, education and family disputes (unless domestic violence is involved). For other areas that are not axed, clients will have to rely on telephone advice lines for support.

The Ministry of Justice has said that half a million people will no longer be entitled to legal aid funding every year. The Legal Action Group outs the figure at nearer 650,000. The family courts will be hit hardest as a quarter of a million cases are removed from public funding.

One judge has already admitted that the new government regulations will increase the chance of justice not being done. A recent study found that the chance of losing a case doubled for a person without legal representation.

The government has defended the cuts saying they are necessary to reduce the amount of lengthy, sometimes unnecessary proceedings that are being funded at the taxpayers expense. But the general consensus outwith the government is that there must be a better way. Denying the very people who need legal representation the most the chance to claim compensation doesn’t sound to fit in with a caring society.

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