11:52, December 28 69 0 theguardian.com

2018-12-28 11:52:06
What it takes for the Tories’ callous legal aid cuts to hit home

It is certainly true that many people are being deprived of access to justice following the legal aid cuts (Legal aid cuts force parents to drop fight for children, 27 December). Many parents who cannot possibly afford solicitors’ fees are faced with the possibility of losing their children or financial rights on divorce, or the incredibly daunting prospect of representing themselves in an archaic justice system that is not designed with them in mind.

Every day we hear from litigants in person who try to muster the energy, strength and resources for the latter. We at Advicenow provide step-by-step guides, films and tools to try to help people going to court without the help of a lawyer as much as we can, but obviously writing “simple” guides to an incredibly complex system is a mammoth challenge.

Most of our guides are free, and of the two that aren’t, we offer free copies to people with a household income less than £1,100 a month. The financial situation for many litigants in person is such that we give away more copies than we sell. Another thing that goes some way to show the scale of the problem is that our step-by-step guide to going to court about a child arrangements order is downloaded 135,000 times annually.

Mary Marvel

Deputy chief executive, Law for Life

The case studies highlighted in your articles on legal aid cuts (Parents going it alone, 27 December) vividly illustrate the harm caused to men, women and families without representation caught up in wholly one-sided legal struggles against powerful opponents. It is callous of the government to consign disadvantaged individuals to ill-treatment by powerful landlords, employers, public authorities or retailers simply because they cannot afford to employ a lawyer to enforce their rights.

We are constantly told how the legal aid bill has risen to an unaffordable level, but it would be instructive to know how far this is due to the astronomical sums doled out in high-profile commercial cases as opposed to the relatively minor amounts needed to assist individuals with legitimate legal needs. I suspect the electorate would prefer to help the latter at the expense of the former.

Michael Meadowcroft

Leeds

Your depressing headline about parents having to abandon their efforts to maintain contact with their children is a salutary reminder of what must have stood as one of the huge reasons a welfare state was conceived all those years ago. The unfolding dramas of lives affected by this seismic cut must surely impact on the breakdown in so many areas of our communities, and cost so much more to “patch” and rectify than the initial investment in the system of a dignified justice process.

Wendy Newman

Totnes, Devon

So Nigel Evans has discovered empathy following his experience of the justice system (Tory who lost savings in court wants legal aid restored, 28 December).

Do we need Matt Hancock to suffer a critical illness, Amber Rudd to live a few months on benefits, Theresa May to be deported and equivalent fates to befall the rest of the cabinet for them to understand the lives of the people they govern?

John Shanahan

Manchester

I would like to think that Nigel Evans’s Damascene conversion on the issue of legal aid will extend to the plight of thousands of refugees who are in much worse material circumstances.

Terry Ward

Wickford, Essex

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