(Author Lizzie Irons, Head of Service, the Personal Support Unit) As we head into the autumn, we are taking stock, with each PSU writing a progress report for April to September 2017. The most surprising news is not the overall increase in client contacts over the period, but the fact that for over a third of our services (8 of 21) recorded client contacts peaked in August, reaching the highest client contact figures to date. Gone are the days when the summer represented a dip in workload and a short breathing space.
Melissa Mohndoro, Trainee Solicitor at RCJ Advice discusses the Supreme Court's decision to abolish Employment Tribunal fees. "The Employment Tribunals exist to provide a simple means for individuals to challenge the decisions of employers that affect their civil rights. In spite of the ever-increasing complexity of modern employment law, a great many citizens pursue claims in the employment tribunal as a litigant in person.
(Author: Toby Brown, barrister at South Square chambers and trustee at the Access to Justice Foundation) Many of you reading this will be aware of pro bono costs. But for those who don’t know, pro bono costs are the equivalent of normal legal costs, yet are available when the winning party was assisted by free of charge legal representation. Under section 194 of the Legal Services Act 2007 the losing party pays the equivalent sum of costs to the Access to Justice Foundation. The Foundation then distributes the funds to support organisations that provide free legal help to those in need. So the scheme levels the playing field for pro bono assisted parties in terms of costs risks and therefore can help parties settle, and produces extra money for justice. But why then are we not getting more pro bono costs?
(Author: Rayla Javaid, RCJ Advice) The courts are now actively encouraging alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in civil matters to assist settlement. Pre-Action Protocol encourages early disclosure by the parties so that issues can be settled without the need to pursue litigation. Failure to do so will now inevitably lead to cost consequences as the courts will need to see that parties have attempted at the very least to engage in ADR such as mediation. This all leads back to the legal principle of proportionality.
(Author: Sue Day, Citizens Advice Shepway) Since the changes to Legal Aid in 2013 Advice Agencies and the public have struggled. Advice Agencies because previous provision and funding of legal advice has shrunk dramatically and the public because their need for legal advice, assistance and representation remains undiminished but the ability to access this in some areas is no longer there and in others is greatly reduced.
James Sandbach looks at the trend in money claims, based on data compiled for the Ministry of Justice by the Registry Trust
Author: James Sandbach, Director of Policy and External Affairs, LawWorks. "About a month ago I was privileged to have a sneak preview of the “Beta” sites that HMCTS officials have been working as part of the Court modernisation programme to digitise much of the court process and administration. Justice Minister Oliver Heald brought officials along to the House of Commons for a private briefing of MPs, as the Prisons and Courts Bill was about to be launched in Parliament. Despite having been involved in much of the discussion about “Online Courts” since the Briggs Review and the subsequent Ministry of Justice paper on “Transforming our Justice System,” I wasn’t quite clear what to expect, but after the preliminaries about customer journeys and the political words about improving the justice system for everyone, we finally saw a demonstration of what the new processes will look like.
Dr Jane Krishnadas explains the foundations of CLOCK, The Community Legal Outreach Collaboration, Keele. CLOCK was formed as an umbrella of professional public, private and third sector organisations, to develop a new role ‘the Community Legal Companion’, premised upon the McKenzie Friend principles, to safeguard the litigant- in-person’s rights to assistance and access to legally-aided and affordable legal services, within the shared commitment to access to justice.
Citizenship Foundation’s latest blog explains the importance of triggering article 50 and why it is important for it to be explained in our schools.
Amnesty report: ‘Cuts to legal aid have ‘decimated access to justice’ for thousands of the most vulnerable’
The 48-page report 'Cuts That Hurt' exposes the impact of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) which came into force on 1 April 2013 and imposed wholesale changes to the legal aid system for family and other areas of civil law in England and Wales. The report warns that the reduction in access to justice is far worse than anticipated, and calls for the government to urgently launch a comprehensive review into the effects of the changes, which it has not yet undertaken despite having committed to doing so.