Bar Council Chairman: "We won't stand by as vulnerable people suffer". Barristers launch how-to Guide for DIY litigants

1 April 2013

The Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, has today published A Guide to Representing Yourself in Court.

The Guide has been produced as the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) comes into force, removing swathes of areas of law from the scope of legal aid, and leaving thousands of vulnerable people without access to legal representation. This represents the biggest cuts to civil legal aid since the system was 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:

  • Personal injury

  • Employment

  • Immigration

  • Family

  • Public law and Judicial Review

  • Housing, and

  • Bankruptcy and debt.

Maura McGowan QC, Chairman of the Bar, said:

"As a result of LASPO, more people than ever before will find themselves going to court without legal representation. It is not just the view of the Bar; the Judiciary, the broader legal profession and legal advice centres are all saying the same thing.

"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.

"We will be sending the Guide to all MPs in England and Wales, so that it might help their constituents who find themselves in a desperate situation that has been made so much worse by these needless cuts, which, as the courts face being clogged with DIY litigants, may end up costing more than the Government were ever likely to save.

"I am enormously grateful to the many practitioners and Specialist Bar Associations who freely gave their time to support this hugely important project."

ENDS

Notes to editors:

1. For further information, please contact the  Bar Council Press Office on 020 7222 2525 or  Press@BarCouncil.org.uk .

2. A Guide to Representing Yourself in Court can be found here.

3. The Bar Council represents barristers in England and Wales. It promotes:

  • The Bar's high quality specialist advocacy and advisory services

  • Fair access to justice for all

  • The highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across the profession, and

  • The development of business opportunities for barristers at home and abroad.

The General Council of the Bar is the Approved Regulator of the Bar of England and Wales. It discharges its regulatory functions through the independent Bar Standards Board.