What Price Justice?

In the recent Court of Appeal (CA) case of Lindner v. Rawlins, reported in the Times Law Reports on 7th April 2015 and for which judgment was given on 10th February 2015, three CA judges heard the appeal of a litigant in person from whom legal aid had been withdrawn. As the case involved issues of legal complexity that the litigant could not be expected to deal with and as he was not represented, the court was required to research the law for itself and to review a large amount of documents. This involved ‘an expensive use of judicial time, which was in short supply already’.

Lord Justice Aikens can be said to have expressed the view of the whole court when he said: ‘Money might have been saved from the legal aid funds, but an equal amount of expense, if not more, had been incurred in terms of the costs of judges’ and court time…the result was that there had, in fact, been no economy at all. Worse, that way of dealing with cases ran the risk that a correct result would not be reached because the court had not had the legal assistance of counsel that it should have had and the court had no other legal assistance available to it’.

What is the price of justice? The consensus in Government seems to be that it is ‘too high’ with the result that funding is being savagely withdrawn from the legal aid scheme. When three very senior judges are driven to give a judgment in such vivid terms, the Government should sit-up and take notice. We rely on the courts to uphold the Rule of Law as they have sought to do for many hundreds of years. If we are to maintain a mature and civilised society, the courts and, when appropriate, those who come before them as litigants, must be provided with adequate public funding. There is no point in having law that cannot be properly applied and without the law there is no society.