RESIDENTS in Worcestershire are being denied access to justice through a “farcical” system, which has reduced the number of law firms that are able to provide legal aid in family law proceedings.

Several leading firms in the county have had their legal aid contracts cancelled, while others have been restricted to the number of family law cases they can deal with, resulting in some job losses.

Nicholas Turner, honourary secretary of the Worcestershire Law Society, said some towns have become “legal aid deserts” for people who need representation in family law proceedings. In Worcester, there is only one firm operating in the city which can offer family legal aid. In Droitwich there are none.

Mr Turner, of Russell and Co Solicitors in Malvern, said they can only deal with 50 cases in a year – reduced from 89 last year. They had tendered for 150.

Firms in Evesham have also been heavily restricted in the number of cases they can take on.

Mr Turner said they are now having to turn away “countless” people who need representation in the family court for matters such as domestic violence, abduction of children, or those who need to respond to local authority care proceedings. He has now written to Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly urging him to get rid of the tendering process.

He wrote: “Access to justice is being denied as a consequence of the disastrous contracting arrangement imposed by the Legal Services Commission on solicitors’ practices in the county seeking to do family law. You need to suspend the tendering process, withdraw it and come out with a solution that does not deprive the most underprivileged members of our society from access to justice.

“Whilst we can see that savings need to be made to the public purse, this burden should not fall on the weakest members of society and that is precisely what the impact of the tendering process has now done.”

Worcestershire MPs Peter Luff, Robin Walker and Harriet Baldwin have all endorsed Mr Turner’s concerns.

Mr Luff said: “I have very serious concerns about the way the LSC has managed these contracts and big questions need to be asked.

“It is not a money saving measure, it is just bad processes which could lead to very severe consequ-ences for people who need access to these services.

“A reduction in the number of firms who can provide these services means the access to justice is reduced.”