The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has failed to publish for over a year a major report on litigants in person in family law cases involving six universities, it has emerged.
Dame Ursula Brennan, permanent secretary at the MoJ, was strongly criticised by MPs on the justice select committee last month for publishing a highly critical report on the criminal legal aid cuts a year after it was finished.
The research on litigants in person, led by Professor Liz Trinder at Exeter University, aimed to assess the impact of the legal aid cuts in private family law cases. The universities of Bristol, Kent, Cambridge, Cardiff and UCL in London were also involved.
According to the Exeter University’s website, the work was commissioned by the MoJ in November 2012 and designed to help people understand the “range or types” of litigants in person and their “behaviourial drivers and support needs”.
The study also examined the impact of unrepresented litigants on the court system before the legal aid reforms, “to aid in mitigating some of the issues that might arise post-reform and assessing the impacts of reform”.
Fieldwork for the project was carried out in early 2013 and included observations of 151 hearings, case file analysis, and interviews and focus groups with litigants and lawyers. An overview report and thematic report containing the main findings were handed to the MoJ in September 2013.
A spokesman for the MoJ said Professor Trinder’s report was “awaiting quality assurance” and there was no date set for its publication.
Simon Hughes, the justice minister, acknowledged the growth in litigants in person in the civil and family courts by unveiling a £2m package of support last month.
Aimed at keeping disputes away from court as supporting individuals with their litigation, the funding will enable, along with other things, expansion of the Personal Support Unit.