Family Division President says legal aid cuts ‘disconcerting’
Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division and England’s most senior family judge, has described his dismay at the reliance on pro bono representation by some defendants in serious family cases.
The President dismissed an application by the Solicitor General for mother Jennifer Marie Jones to be sent to prison after she failed to comply with rulings under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
The English teacher had been denied legal aid despite having a low income, because she had a share in two properties in Spain and this meant her total assets exceeded the maximum £8,000 allowed. She was unable to sell her shares within the short time frame available.
Sir Munby praised the willingness of her solicitors to act for her on a pro bono basis.
“There can be no higher call on the honour of the bar than when one its members is asked to act for no fee on behalf of a client facing imprisonment. The bar I am sure will never fail in its obligation to stand between the Crown and the subject in such a case. And the same goes I am sure for the other profession.”
But, he continued:
‘It is disconcerting that something so fundamental – the right to a proper defence when a great officer of state seeks to have you imprisoned – should be dependent upon the willingness of the bar and its instructing solicitor to act without fee…..There is I am told, no other basis upon which public funding can be made available in a case such as this. If this is really so, it might be thought that something needs to be done”.
Photo by John Halbrook via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence
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Marilyn Stowe is the senior partner in Stowe Family Law, which has offices in Yorkshire, Cheshire and London. With more than 30 years’ experience handling divorce cases and family law proceedings she is regarded as one of the most formidable and sought after divorce lawyers in the UK. In 2012, Marilyn became one of the first solicitors to qualify as a family law arbitrator.
All persons mentioned in the scenarios are fictitious: details have been deliberately changed in order to protect identities and other confidential circumstances of my clients. All advice and information on this blog including posts written by guest authors, is given only as a general guide to the operation of the law on the date of publication. Readers must place no reliance whatsoever on the content of this blog and must always obtain their own legal advice. Marilyn Stowe, Stowe Family Law LLP and guest authors accept no liability whatsoever arising as a result of reliance upon its content.
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