50/50 house poses legal assistance dilemma single mum
A single mother who earns less than £5,000 a year was denied a publicly-funded lawyer for a civil case recently - and told she could instead sell her flat to fund her legal costs.
Chief Justice Anthony Dudley ‘sympathised’ with the woman, but said as a homeowner she had passed the threshold for legal assistance.
The woman had applied for legal assistance because an existing contact order in respect of her children was being reviewed.
But she was told she could sell her 50% stake in a government affordable house to fund the costs.
The court heard how she had twice previously met requirements for legal assistance based on her salary, which was less than £5,000 annually.
But Mr Justice Dudley said legal assistance had been previously been granted in error as it had come to light that the appellant part-owned a house in Waterport Terraces.
Under the legal assistance scheme, a person’s wage and assets including property are factored into the final decision.
The court heard how the single mother had received a loan from family members to afford a mortgage for the flat.
Mr Justice Dudley also acknowledged that the sale of her property would render her unable to apply for further Government housing.
It was also noted the remaining funds from the sale would be “insufficient” to rehouse or fund a private rental for the appellant and their children.
“I sympathise with her predicament but the short point is that given the value of her home, the appellant does not meet the financial criteria so as to qualify for legal assistance,” Mr Justice Dudley said in his judgement.
The court recognised this would bring “hardship” in terms of re-housing, but her home-ownership status meant she did not meet requirements for legal assistance.