Sir James Munby, president of the Family Division, has branded the denial of Legal Aid to a family fighting to prevent their child being put up for adoption as “both unprincipled and unconscionable.”
As reported in the Law Society Gazette, Swindon Borough Council have recommended that a family’s two-year-old son be put up for adoption – a recommendation opposed by the parents. Unfortunately, a means assessment conducted in May found that the father’s monthly income was £34.64 over the limit for them to be eligible to receive Legal Aid, and the parents have been forced to represent themselves against the local authority.
Munby violently disagreed with the state’s handling of the situation, and said that he was grappling with the “profoundly disturbing fact” that the parents do not qualify for legal aid but lack the money to pay for their own legal representation.
He went on to opine that the state had “simply washed its hands of the problem”; and threatened to instruct the court itself or some other element of the public finances fund the parents’ case. The decision as to whether representation will be funded by the local authority, the legal aid fund or HM Courts and Tribunals Service awaits his decision on 13 November.
Responding to Munby’s judgement, Bar Council chairman Nicholas Lavender QC said parents fighting to keep their children should never be required to represent themselves in court: “Defending yourself against a local authority means going head-to-head with the government, and without a highly trained advocate on your side, the odds are stacked against you.”
For the full story visit the Law Society Gazette.