Legal help is out there for those in need

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JUSTICE will suffer because of cuts to legal aid, an expert has said.

Shaun O’Connell, a lay legal adviser, says increasing numbers of people will represent themselves because they can’t afford solicitors – or will not go to court at all.

Mr O’Connell wants those families to know that so-called McKenzie friends – unqualified legal advisers such as himself – can provide support and advice for people considering self-representing.

He echoed concerns raised in a report last week from the Civil Justice Council, which warned that the £350m government cuts would have a harmful effect on the most vulnerable in society.

The report also warned that there will be severe delays and problems as increasing numbers of inexperienced claimants clog up the system.

‘The biggest problem is for people who are at the bottom end of the bracket,’ said Mr O’Connell, 48.

He also added that it was inevitable that the lack of legal aid would lead to some people simply deciding not to seek justice.

He said that the courts were bound to see an increase in the number of ‘self-representing litigants’ because of the changes, and warned that the complex nature of the legal procedure and the jargon used in courts, as well as the potentially emotional nature of self-representation, will lead to problems.

‘People who are representing themselves without anyone with them are risking losing simply because of a mistake in the proceedings,’ he added.

Mr O’Connell, of Locksway Road, Milton, said: ‘The message needs to get out to the general public, before they actually begin any court proceedings, that these things exist.

‘If they have a McKenzie friend, who’s got some knowledge of the law and the procedure and what’s relevant and what’s not, then you can actually get closer to justice.’

To find out more, call Mr O’Connell on (023) 9234 2777 or visit his website southernfamilyaid.com, or email southernfamilyaid@gmail.com.