Former High Court judge Baroness Butler-Sloss has criticised the Government over cuts to legal help for dealing with personal family law disputes.
In her very first Lords speech since being appointed to lead the coalition Government’s questions into allegations that establishment figures conspired to cover up child abuse, she alerted the cuts “block the courts” and “create delay”.
Lady Butler-Sloss dealt with calls yesterday to step down from the questions after reports that her sibling Sir Michael Havers tried to prevent ex-MP Geoffrey Dickens airing claims about a diplomat in parliament in the 1980s.
But the Prime Minister supported her and Lady Butler-Sloss refused to give up.
Today, in a discussion on the UK’s legal systems, the former president of the family department and independent crossbencher welcomed much of the family regulation presented over the last 25 years.
But she said the “bad” part was that from April there had actually been no legal aid in private family law disputes, including youngsters and finance, with the exception of those involving domestic violence or child abuse.
Lady Butler-Sloss said divorce was a “unpleasant process” for all but in a small minority of cases the former relationship turned “corrosive” with one or both previous partners using the courts to combat their failed relationship.
Some disliked their partners so much that they could not come to any arrangement and mediation would not work in these conditions.
She said men and women, inexperienced in the law, battling their failed relationships, were appearing unrepresented before the courts due to the cuts.
Courts faced with “provider bags of unsorted and disorganised papers” discovered the task “huge and unmanageable”.
“It obstructs the courts. It creates delay and I hope the Government would pay attention to the reality it is not cost effective.”.
Lady Butler-Sloss added: “We have Magna Carta celebrations next year and they will sound hollow in the face of the failure to be able to do justice in private family law disputes.”