Govt faces pressure to close legal aid divorce “loophole'

The government has come under pressure to tighten up legal aid in divorce cases following The Lawyer’s revelation last week that the woman intending to marry Anthony Julius is getting legal aid for her divorce.

Julius took about £250,000 a year as a partner at Mishcon de Reya, while the husband of his future wife, Dina Rabinovitch, is a wealthy City banker.

Last week, the Evening Standard called on the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, to close what it described as a “loophole” in the legal aid system.

It said Julius’ wealth should have been taken into account when Rabinovitch applied for legal aid.

But a Lord Chancellor’s Department spokesman said last week: “There won’t be anything in the Government white paper that specifically addresses this issue.

“Provision is already felt to be made with the powers of the special investigation unit.”

The unit investigates claims felt to be suspicious.

In a toughening of the rules in 1996, designed to prevent apparently wealthy individuals getting legal aid, the LCD granted the Legal Aid Board discretionary powers to include in the means assessment of an applicant “the assets of friends, relatives and children where these appear to be providing a significant material advantage to the applicant”.

The Law Society said it felt the current system, which judged the spouse only on his or her own assets, was the fairest available.

A spokesman said: “In many cases, even if the husband is wealthy, the woman has nothing. If she then marries a wealthy man, the Legal Aid Board can claw the money back.”