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Litigants in Person

Volume 632: debated on Tuesday 5 December 2017

5. What steps his Department is taking in response to recent trends in the number of people who represent themselves in court. (902744)

The Government’s litigants in person support strategy provides a range of practical support and information to those without legal representation before the courts.

Senior judges are warning that the growing number of litigants in person is creating a huge burden on judges, lawyers and the litigants themselves. Will the Minister commit to restoring legal aid to the family courts, where this problem is most serious, as Labour has promised to do?

We have the LASPO review, which I have described. If I may, I will take this opportunity to point out that since 2015 we have invested £5 million in the litigant in person support strategy, which includes practical support such as: online and self-help resources, access to free or affordable legal advice, and, where possible, legal representation.

Representing themselves in court has been a real issue for domestic violence victims. Restoring legal aid is welcome, but that will not happen until January. I note the Justice Secretary is advertising for a second speechwriter at a rate of £70,000. As there is cash to spare, will he commit to ensuring that domestic violence victims who seek legal aid, as of yesterday’s announcement, will be able to claim retrospectively under the new criteria?

We will be laying the statutory instrument shortly and I think, beneath the political point-scoring, the hon. Lady welcomed it. It will make it easier to apply for legal aid in family cases where there has been a victim of domestic abuse. More broadly, wider personal support units provide trained volunteers who give free independent assistance to people facing proceedings in the family sphere and beyond. There are 20 centres in 16 cities. I hope she would welcome that.