The following resolutions were unanimously approved at the national meeting of the Family Law Bar Association on 17th September 2011. They have been sent to the Government :
- The FLBA calls on the Government to include in the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (“the Bill”) a specific provision requiring the Lord Chancellor, in the exercise of his powers to ensure practical and effective access to justice.
- The FLBA proposes that the Bill be amended to require the Lord Chancellor, when making relevant regulations, to have regard (as at present) to the need to secure the provision of services by a sufficient number of competent persons and bodies.
- The FLBA invites the Government to extend the provision of legal aid in exceptional cases to all cases where there is an actual or threatened injustice (Clause 9), and to consult interested parties on the relevant guidance as to the exercise of the Director’s discretion in this regard.
- The FLBA invites the Government to amend the Bill to ensure that public funds are made available (subject to eligibility) for legal advice and representation for all parties in all cases where:
- The child has been joined as a party (whether under Rule 16 or otherwise);
- The court is considering making findings of harm/abuse (whether to adult or child).
- The court is considering making a section 37 direction (investigation of child’s circumstances by a Local Authority) or a section 38 order (interim removal into care, even in private law proceedings).
- The FLBA invites the Government to extend the definition of domestic abuse (Schedule 1) to include “any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (whether physical, mental, financial or emotional)”.
- The FLBA invites the Government to accept as evidence of domestic abuse for the purposes of entitlement to public funds not only that he/she has obtained an injunction inFLA 1996 proceedings, or there is a finding of fact of abuse in previous proceedings, but alternatively that
– “the individual has been admitted to a refuge for persons suffering from domestic abuse; OR
– the individual has obtained medical or other professional services relating to the consequences of domestic abuse; OR
– the individual has made a complaint to the police of an offence of domestic abuse which is being investigated;
– a competent mediator is satisfied that mediation is not suitable on consideration of previous instance(s) of domestic abuse or other power imbalance”.
- The FLBA requires the Ministry of Justice to state openly and urgently what plans it has made for ensuring that those who need acute crisis advice will receive such advice.
- The FLBA invites the Government to announce what steps it proposes to take to support the Judiciary, and Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service, in managing the predicted higher number of litigants in person appearing in the family courts in private law cases.