UK High Court judge in high praise of pro bono lawyers

A High Court judge in the UK has heaped praise upon the work conducted by pro bono lawyers amid the shortcomings of the UK legal aid system, drawing a comparison to the fictional character Boxer – the hardworking, zealous horse from George Orwell’s book, Animal Farm.

This case involved an appeal made to the High Court by a father who was ordered by the court to have no direct contact with his 12 year old son. The appeal was allowed in part with the presiding judge, Williams J, concluding that the decision was wrong although acknowledged it was an exceptionally difficult case.

In his judgement, Williams J highlighted the important and admirable role played by the pro bono lawyers representing both parties in the proceedings. He extended his gratitude to both legal counsels, citing their pro bono representation as being amongst the ‘‘finest traditions in the legal profession.’’

He went on to say that such legal workers are filling the ‘‘gaping holes in the fabric of legal aid in private law cases because of their commitment to the delivery of justice.’’ This case was concluded following a report undertaken by the UK Ministry for Justice which conveyed that the public funding cuts to legal aid in private family law matters had led to a substantial rise in lay litigants; increasing from 13% in 2012-12 to 36% in 2017-18.

He continued; ‘‘without such public-spirited lawyers how would those such as the father and mother in this case navigate the process and present their cases? How judges manage to deliver justice to the parties and an appropriate judgment for the child without such assistance in cases like this begs the question. It is a blight on the current legal aid system that cases such as this do not attract public funding.’’

Williams J stated that pro bono lawyers were ‘‘so far removed from the stereotyped ‘fat-cat’, the legal profession in cases such as this are more akin to Boxer in George Orwell's ‘Animal Farm’ always telling themselves ‘‘I will work harder’’.’’

Click here for full judgement.

Click here for further analysis from the UK Law Society Gazette.



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