Legal Aid

Appeal court judge slams Carter

PUBLISHED December 12, 2006

There is unanimity among the judiciary ?from the President of the Family Division downwards? that the implementation of the Carter review would have a devastating effect on the practice of family law, a Court of Appeal judge said last week.

Speaking at Cardiff Law School, Lord Justice Nicholas Wall said the response from the judiciary and the profession had been ?clear, well informed, powerful and unanimous?.

He told an audience of practitioners, academics and students that he feared the disappearance of many valuable firms and competent family practitioners, who would be priced out of the market and forced to abandon the work.

Sir Nicholas said this would lead to an increase in the already large number of litigants in person, with a consequential increase in the time spent by the court on each case, and decrease in the number of settlements.

?If publicly funded family law is to survive as a viable service to parents and children, let alone if it is to flourish, its participants must be properly remunerated,? he said.

Sir Nicholas added: ?It is not too late for the government to draw back, but if it does not do so, my fears for the practice of family law in the public sector are profound.?

A Department for Constitutional Affairs spokesman said the proposals were necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of the legal aid system. ?We are committed to the principles of fixed fees and best-value competition. But we recognise that the details of the proposed family schemes were not quite right; we will therefore be consulting on revised proposals in the new year.?

Catherine Baksi