The available evidence indicates that the proportion of litigants appearing before the civil and family courts in England and Wales without legal representation (litigants in person) has increased since the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 took many civil and private law children and family cases out of scope for legal aid from 1 April 2013.
The changes to the scope of civil and family legal aid have proved controversial. Concerns have been expressed about the effects on individuals who are no longer eligible for legal aid to resolve legal problems and on the courts which must deal with increased numbers of litigants in person. Whether the reforms will generate the savings that have been claimed – or whether the increased numbers of litigants in person will drive up costs - has also been debated.
Reliable data on LIPs is scarce Most of the data that are available concern LIPs in the family courts, although the legal aid reforms are likely also to have increased the number of LIPs in civil law courts.
Are litigants in person now qualitatively different?In its own inquiry into the impact of the changes to civil legal aid, the Commons Justice Committee heard evidence to suggest that not only were there more LIPs, they were now qualitatively different. In the past, LIPs had been in the courts by choice but now they were there because they could not get legal aid. The Committee voiced concern that some LIPs might have difficulty in presenting their case.
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Litigants in person: the rise of the self-represented litigant in civil and family cases in England and Wales
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