Charlie Gard and Legal Aid

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It is one of the less discussed aspects of the tragic case of Charlie Gard that his parents had no access to Legal Aid so that they could be represented before the courts.

They were very fortunate that their solicitors acted for free (pro-bono). The hospital had their fees paid by the state. Charlie himself was represented by a guardian who was paid for by the state but the state refused to pay for Charlie’s parents to be represented.

If the state had been trying to take Charlie into care to be fostered or adopted the state would have paid for his parents to be represented in court. That is only fair. If the state wants to take your children off you they must pay for you to be represented in court where their application is being heard.

It seems outrageously unfair that other parents in the same position as Charlie’s should have to act for themselves without the benefit of legal advice regarding the highly complex and emotive issues raised in court when the state (via the NHS) seeks to bring a child’s life to an end.

In 2013 the government brought Legal Aid in most family law cases to an end. The result is that thousands of parents no longer have meaningful access to the courts in order to sort out disputes concerning their children. Parents in the same position of Charlie Gard’s are the unforeseen victims of these ill thought out cut backs. Legal Aid needs to be provided for other parents as soon as possible so that other parents have actual, not just theoretical, access to the courts where their children’s fate is being decided.

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