Access to justice and civil legal aid reform: A socio-legal analysis of the experiences of litigants in person in the family and civil courts

Barry, KA ORCID: 0000-0001-8503-4485
(2018) Access to justice and civil legal aid reform: A socio-legal analysis of the experiences of litigants in person in the family and civil courts. PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.

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The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) removed legal aid from family and civil matters without ensuring that the fundamentally adversarial justice system could accommodate those litigants who would no longer be eligible for publicly funded representation. This decision to remove legal aid was taken despite the dearth of empirical evidence about the experiences of what have come to be known as litigants in person (LIPs). The lack of empirical evidence, which remains post-LASPO, is the chief motivation for this thesis, which examines the extent to which LIPs are able to navigate through the complex family and civil procedure rules to gain effective access to the courts. In order to achieve this objective, the author interviewed 36 LIPs who appeared in family and civil courts in a major North West City in England. Being premised on the need to provide a ‘voice’ for LIPs, the project takes a socio-legal and qualitative approach to this data whilst also being underpinned by the themes of access to justice; procedural justice and proportionate justice. The thesis confirms that LIPs face barriers to accessing justice throughout all stages of family and civil proceedings, but these barriers are compounded by the reforms made to legal aid entitlement. LIPs now face new challenges in the form of the compulsory requirement to attend mediation information assessment meetings and the restricted nature of legal aid eligibility for the domestically abused. Further, at a time when early legal advice is more crucial than ever, the slowness of the legal profession to adapt to modern litigants’ needs has led to a newcomer being welcomed to the legal services market offering access to justice, but at the risk of exploitation. Conversely, in the absence of legal aid, it is the legal profession and judiciary who hold the key to access to justice for LIPs. By providing them with a voice and sufficient control when litigating, it is possible to ensure that LIPs can achieve effective access to the courts as well as procedural fairness.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Law and Social Justice
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 21 Aug 2018 07:31
Last Modified: 19 Jan 2023 06:35
DOI: 10.17638/03020762