|A couple with intellectual disabilities went to court
in the United Kingdom (in short UK).
The government wants to take their child from them.
They want to keep their child but cannot pay for a lawyer.
The government will not give them money to help them pay.
The government in the UK does not always help people
pay for lawyers that fight for their rights.
The UK Government’s legal aid reforms have come under heavy criticism from a senior judge this week after it was revealed that a couple with intellectual disabilities were not able to claim financial assistance supporting legal costs.
In the case known as ‘In the matter of D’, Swindon Borough Council argued that the child (D) should be taken from his parents and put up for adoption.
Given the financial status of the couple, who both have intellectual disabilities, they were unable to fund legal representation themselves and, in the light of recent governmental reforms on legal aid, they were not deemed to meet the relevant criteria to receive support. As a result, the couple was expected to represent themselves.
Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, claimed that this case was “a breach of their rights” and was in direct contravention of their right to a fair trial under Articles 6 and 8 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Until now, Rebecca Stevens of the law firm With King has spent over 100 hours on the couple’s case unpaid.
The reforms were made following significant governmental cuts to legal aid resulting in funding only being provided for defendants in the most serious of cases. As a result, a huge number of British people, particularly those with intellectual disabilities and the most vulnerable, are often forced to represent themselves against governmental bodies in housing, family and employment disputes.
Munby has since demanded a separate set of proceedings which will investigate the extent to which the couple’s legal costs will be funded, be that by governmental support or the Tribunals Service.
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