As the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) come into force today, the Bar Council of England and Wales has published A Guide to Representing Yourself in Court.
After LASPO comes into force, fewer people now have access to free legal representation than at any time since legal aid was first introduced in 1949.
The Guide, which has been compiled by a range of Specialist Bar Associations, including a number of QCs, sets out an insider’s view on how to find free or affordable help with a legal problem, how to start and defend a claim, how to represent yourself in court and advice on specialist sections of law, including a chapter on family law.
The Bar Council will be sending the Guide to all MPs in England and Wales, so that it might help their constituents who find themselves having to represent themselves in court.
Maura McGowan QC, Chairman of the Bar, said: “We are faced with a situation whereby access to justice is no longer being adequately funded and vulnerable people will suffer. That is wrong, but it would be equally wrong for the profession to stand by and do nothing. That should not be misconstrued as an endorsement of the Government’s position; it is because we genuinely believe that access to justice must be our primary consideration.
“The legal profession already offers a huge amount of free legal advice and representation, but we know that cannot hope to meet the need which LASPO will create. We have spent months designing an accessible and clear Guide to help people who are representing themselves to navigate through the process. It is a daunting and stressful process and we hope that this Guide will go some way to making the courts seem a little more accessible.”
Representing yourself in court
LASPO – will you now have to represent yourself in court?
On 1 April 2013, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) came into force. It means that fewer people now have access to free legal representation than at any time since legal aid (state funding for legal advice and representation) was introduced. This means that if you have a legal problem there is now more chance that you will have to represent yourself.
The Bar Council represents all barristers in England and Wales. We believe that access to justice matters. Whether people use barristers’ services or not, we think we have a responsibility to explain and demystify the legal system to anyone who comes into contact with it. We have produced a Guide to help you on your legal journey, which has been written by barristers, who have lots of experience in all kinds of different courts and understand how the system works.
The number of people who do not qualify for legal aid, but equally cannot afford representation, is growing. These people are called ‘litigants-in-person’ (LIPs) or, as they were previously known; ‘self-representing litigants’ (SRLs). They will have to go to court (to ‘litigate’) without a lawyer, and will have to represent themselves.
This Guide looks to help ‘litigants-in-person’ through their legal journey, which can be a very daunting, complicated and expensive experience.
How to read it
We recommend that you use the first three, general, Sections to familiarise yourself with how the legal process works, how to prepare your case, and if you have to go to court, what you should expect and be aware of. Then go to the relevant part to your case in the final Section (Section 4). If you have a case which does not fall under Section 4, the first three sections will still be helpful. Remember that different areas of law, and different courts, have different procedures. This means that not all the general guidance in the first three Sections will be applicable to all types of case. Try to do as much research as you can, using the resources we suggest in this Guide.
The Guide will cover:
Section 1: How to find free or affordable help with your legal problem
Section 2, Part 1: Putting together your case
Section 2, Part 2: Starting and defending a claim
Section 3: Representing yourself in court: On the day
- Section 4: Areas of law
Personal injury law
Property ownership in relationship breakdowns
Public law and Judicial Review
Bankruptcy and debt law
Glossary of terms
SOURCE: Bar Council