Last year we ran a series of articles on the dramatic increase in applications for non-molestation orders since legal aid cuts were introduced in 2013.
The Daily Mail has picked up on the troubling data coming from Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service.
The headline runs “Huge rise in divorce claims alleging violence after legal aid was axed except in cases involving abuse.“
An analysis of HMCTS data surrounding applications for non-molestation orders shows statistics which need explanation. The Mail article includes campaigner’s opinion that there is an abuse of the legal aid system and the issue is currently being taken up by Members of Parliament who have been provided with the data.
The figures are extraordinary when you look at the rise in applications by region. The West Midlands stands out in particular. The Mail article contains some of the data. To read a more detailed analysis, see our earlier articles:
Poles Apart: Midlands Non-Molestation and Residence Order Data
The Growth in Applications for Non-Molestation Orders: Spotlight on the South of England
Non-Molestation Orders: The National Picture, North West Anomalies and FPCs
Non-Molestation Orders and Legal Aid – Time for Investigation
An analysis of data showed that in the Birmingham County Court applications for non-mols had risen by 200% since legal aid changes. In the Birmingham Family Proceedings Court, the increase was 775%. Spreadsheet crash, data changes, scripted questions introduced for call-centre staff or intentional abuse of the system? Impossible to tell without an investigation, but it is time the Government at least checked. The figures are extraordinary, and in the West Midlands less than a handful of firms seem responsible for the increase according to other data we’ve seen.
The Ministry of Justice said: ‘We have seen no concrete evidence that our legal aid arrangements have caused any increase in applications for such orders.’ Embarrassing when the evidence came in the raw data and spreadsheets supplied by them to a parent who submitted a Freedom of Information request and forwarded the data onto us. The comparison of two years of data just needed to be done. What point in producing data if it’s not analysed?