Legal Aid Budget Needs Careful Husbanding, Says Top Judge

In the context of swingeing cuts to the legal aid budget, the nation’s top family judge has rejected a father’s request that hundreds of legal documents be translated into his mother tongue at a cost of £23,000 to the public purse.

The father, a party to care proceedings in respect of his eight-year-old daughter, argued that 600 pages of text required to be translated into Slovenian so that he could understand them. It was submitted that this was necessary to afford him his fundamental human right to participate fully in the case.

However, the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, ruled that less than 10 per cent of the documents needed to be translated, thus reducing the cost to about £2,000. That would be sufficient to enable the father, who neither spoke nor read English, to understand the essence of the case.

Pleading for restraint in the expenditure of public money, and in particular the careful husbanding of the legal aid budget, the judge said that money should only be spent on what was ‘necessary’ to enable judges to deal with matters justly. “It is no good complaining that public funds are available only for X and not for Y if money available for X is being squandered,” he observed.