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Judge criticises lack of legal aid assistance in family cases

A family judge has criticised the Legal Aid Agency for refusing her request for assistance in paying for translations of relevant documents created and obtained in the course of a care case.
The parents in the case were both Polish. Although it was agreed that the documents generated at the start of proceedings would be translated at the expense of the local authority, there arose the question of who would pay for translations of the additional documents that would be required in the course of the case.
HHJ Lynn Roberts invited the Legal Aid Agency to intervene, and the case was adjourned to give the LAA time to respond and clarify their position. However, the LAA declined to do so, instead suggesting that the costs should be borne equally by the parents.
HHJ Roberts criticised the LAA for not being clearer about their position, since it was not obvious whether their answer constituted a formal decision or merely a “suggestion”, as well as for not providing an explanation for their position on the matter.
The judge found that “it is not right for the costs of the translation of documents produced in the proceedings to be shared equally…” and that the party “who needs the documents translated should bear the costs and in this case that means that the LAA must bear the costs incurred on that party’s public funding certificate.”

The Legal Aid Agency subsequently made a statement to clarify their position: “Legal aid can be provided for translation services where appropriate. We have been in contact with the court in relation to this case and have established that funding can be provided in these particular circumstances.”
The judgment only deals with cases involving publicly funded parties and has no immediate implications for cases involving those that are not publicly funded.

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