The retiring president of the Supreme Court says legal aid cuts in England and Wales have caused “serious difficulty” to the justice system.
Baroness Hale, who was guest editing BBC Radio 4’s Today, said it was a particular problem in family courts.
In 2013, legal aid was removed from many civil law cases to achieve a saving of £350 million a year.
Baroness Hale of Richmond, who retires next month, is the first female president of the Supreme Court, which is the final court of appeal in the UK.
She said: “I don’t think that anybody who has anything to do with the justice system of England and Wales could fail to be concerned about the problems which the reduction in resources in several directions has caused for the system as a whole.”
The outgoing president said the problem was particularly evident in family courts.
Lady Hale said: “It’s unreasonable to expect a husband and wife or mother and father who are in crisis in their personal relationship to make their own arrangements without help.”
She said in such family dispute cases “there may be an imbalance in resources because of the lack of access”.
Most people require legal help at the beginning of cases, she said.
Additional resources would allow many disputes to be resolved at an early stage, without the need to go to court or stretch their finances, she added.
“It is that lack of initial advice and help which is a serious difficulty.”