LITIGANTS IN PERSON: THE FULL STORY EMERGES: LITIGANTS IN PERSON COST THE JUSTICE SYSTEM MORE

Last week I commented on Buzzfeed’s piece on research that the MOJ carried out on litigants in person.  After a freedom of information request the MOJ, reluctantly, handed over a six page summary of research it carried out on litigants in person. The MOJ insisted that this was the totality of the research.  However there was, in fact, a much more detailed paper. Details of this can be found in Buzzfeed today.  It is worthwhile reading the entire Buzzfeed article, the emails with the MOJ and the somewhat mealy-mouthed reply after publication.  I leave it to readers to draw their own conclusions.

THE MOJ’S STANCE

It is worthwhile reminding ourselves of the MOJ’s stance last week.

“The MoJ repeatedly insisted, including in two on-the-record statements, that the six pages were the report in its entirety, despite it being labelled a summary and containing no direct testimony or data. After BuzzFeed News expressed scepticism, an MoJ press officer said that any edits from the original draft were minor corrections to spelling or grammar. They also insisted that there was no transcript of the judges’ testimony.”

Buzzfeed received an email from a MOJ press officer.

“Further to our conversation earlier where you accused me of lying to you about the report, I want to make it abundantly clear that the report given to you was the only report produced on the back of this research. We will be very disappointed if you allude to us being in any way dishonest in your article.”

THEY MAY NOT BE DISHONEST… BUT

Today Buzzfeed discloses that it has a copy of a much more detailed report.   This is a much more detailed report than the six page summary that the MOJ insisted was the only document it had. It also contains direct quotations from judges, including

“He decides he’s going to represent himself, and then he’s asking questions of these people, it’s almost like committing the offence all over again.”

Further

“The unpublished research explicitly says that not having a lawyer may create more hearings, a situation that could end up costing the court system more”

Buzzfeed observes:-

” the majority of the report is missing from the summary that was released.
The full report suggests that opportunities to adjust policies have been missed. While it contained seven policy recommendations, the summary that was released by the MoJ last week included just three, all of them vaguely worded.”
“On the opening page, it says: “The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) estimated that between 200-300 Crown Court defendants per year would be excluded from criminal legal aid funding due to this change. It was anticipated that this would lead to more people paying their own court costs and that this increase would represent a relatively small proportion of cases in the Crown Court. However, feedback from judicial stakeholders has suggested that since this legal aid change, they believe unrepresented defendant numbers have increased and this is disproportionately reducing the efficiency of the courts.”

IN THE INTEREST OF FAIRNESS

Buzzfeed reports

“After publication a spokesperson for the MoJ said: “The FOI requested the final report and this was provided. Over 99% of applications for Crown Court legal aid are granted, and this hasn’t changed following the reforms. We will this year review all the changes made to legal aid in 2012 under LASPO – including criminal legal aid.”