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Another strain on the beleaguered family law system - provision of partial funding for witness reports could create more delays, say those in the know

Another strain on the beleaguered family law system  - provision of partial funding for witness reports could create more delays, say those in the know

The recent ruling of Mr Justice Ryder that the Legal Aid Agency ( formerly the Legal Services Commission ) is not necessarily liable to pay for all of the costs of an expert witness statement in family cases has certainly caused a stir at the Law Society, and can indeed be seen as having a possible detrimental effect to many families.

In the case of JG v the LSC, JG was a ten year old girl who brought a claim for a judicial review of the LSC's decision not to fully fund the cost of providing an expert  witness report. It was ruled that the LSC had not acted unlawfully in funding merely a third of the costs, its argument being that there were three parties to the case - mother, father and daughter - and that it was obliged only to pay for the child's element of the case.

The Law Society reacted with disappointment to the ruling, with President Lucy Scott-Moncrieff believing it to put families in a 'deadlock' situation, and creating an 'impasse' in cases where such witness reports are required and yet the parties are unable to pay for it.

The Ministry of Justice said that the recent reforms to the legal aid system ensured the prioritisation of taxpayer-funded legal aid - however, the Law Society saw this as letting down families who cannot pay for important reports which assist in their respective cases, arguing that there is not a distinct benefit to parents in such cases, rather it is a child's future which is being decided and this should take priority.

It is difficult not to see this as yet another factor which could slow down a family case, putting strain on the family law system which is already being tested to breaking point with the legal aid reforms so recently brought into practice.

By Claire Clark on 26 Apr 2013, 10:18 AM

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