By Melanie Townsend
The government has just announced that it will be closing 49 county courts (as well as 93 magistrates courts). The government estimates that the tax payer will be saved around £41 million pounds by the court closures as well as a possible further almost £40 million pounds from the sale of court assets. It is intending to reinvest £22 million pounds to improve and modernise the courts that remain.
One can’t help but worry that the closure of almost one quarter of all the courts must have a devastating effect upon the current legal system. It has come at a time when the government is also looking to cut legal aid in family cases. For example, it is proposed that there will no longer be legal aid available for financial cases or (private law) children matters except where there is domestic violence.
It appears that if the government has its way, there will be hardly anyone who can afford to seek justice through the courts and if they do, are likely to face possible lengthy travel to get to court and increased delays due to the fact that the already over burdened courts will have to deal with an increased work load due to the closure of its surrounding local courts.
These changes seem disastrous for the English legal system. The government has an obligation to save money for the tax payer but a great number of tax payers have children and unfortunately a lot of those will go through a divorce. For, for example, the father who is being denied contact with his children, to be faced with the possibility of not being able to obtain legal aid where he would previously have been eligible, he may not be able to afford to seek a court order which would allow him to see his children. Even if he manages to gather enough funds to make an application to the court, if that court has had a number of local surrounding courts closed and all of their work transferred to it, it may be that he will not get his first hearing in any event for 6 months or more. Surely this is not justice for families!
Where a woman is at home looking after young children and her husband leaves her, then refuses to pay her any money, what will she do? If the husband refuses to continue paying the mortgage or provide money for nappies or food, what will happen? The mother and child could be left temporarily homeless and without food or other essentials.
It seems that the government’s recent proposals and mindset deals with the cost of the tax payer in pounds but takes no account of the costs to the average family when for example children are being denied a relationship with either of their parents and parents cannot afford to seek justice where the other party is being unfair and unreasonable with the finances upon divorce.
If you have a family matter you wish to discuss with Melanie, please do not hesitate to telephone Townsend Family Law on 01992 892214 for more information about our reduced rate first appointment. We service all local areas including Epping, Harlow, Hertford, Romford and so on, but we also offer video and telephone conferencing if it is inconvenient for you to attend our offices.