Justice minister Simon Hughes vowed to address the escalating problem of unrepresented litigants in court, with an announcement expected within weeks – but without committing any more money. At the Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow, Hughes stated the party were impassioned about ‘making sure that the most vulnerable are protected as we get the legal aid budget under control’. He admitted that the current surge in litigants in person was due to the legal aid budget being under ‘unprecedented pressure’.
Notwithstanding the promise of support, it was made clear that the legal aid budget was not to be increased, but rather the extra assistance would be without lawyers. Hughes acknowledged the difficulty of this task, and outlined his wish to be that ‘everybody (before they come to court) has the opportunity to talk through with people exactly what the issues are’.
Hughes heralded the Liberal Democrats as the fiercest promoters of ‘civil liberties, human rights and justice’, and the ‘guarantors… of a fairer society’. The imminent plans to support litigants in person formed part of that ethos. Changes already made were the result of being in government, according to Hughes, and future plans hinged upon ‘remaining’ there.
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