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Posts Tagged ‘Legal Aid

Legal Aid preserved for claims in respect of brain-damaged babies and cases of domestic violence

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The Government has announced a concession to the controversial and sweeping legal aid reforms proposed under the Legal aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill. The Ministry of Justice has announced that claims for children who suffered brain damage at birth and those claiming in respect of domestic violence will still be entitled to financial support. The announcement comes as the Bill is headed for a vote in the House of Lords next week.

The Ministry said “The government is committed to supporting victims of domestic violence. We have laid an amendment to the legal aid bill which will put it beyond doubt that those who have suffered physical, psychological or financial domestic abuse will continue to receive a legal aid to help them to resolve any separation disputes over property or child contact.”

It went on “We also agree that clinical negligence claims in obstetrics cases which result in severe disability must receive legal aid. We have therefore brought forward an amendment which will make this clear in law. A safety net will continue to exist for other more serious and complex clinical negligence cases where there is a human rights issue.”

The Bill aims to remove many areas of public funding in the form of legal aid, instead pushing forward the alternative conditional fee agreement, which is commonly referred to as a ‘no win no fee’ arrangement. The concessions generally appear to have been welcomed by critics of the Bill, although there have been claims from some quarters that they do not go far enough.

Written by Andrew Hodges

April 4, 2012 at 8:41 am

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Clinical negligence legal aid challenge mounted

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Charity, Action Against Medical Accidents (AvMA), has launched a legal battle against the Ministry of Justice. The claim has been brought for judicial review of the government’s decision to scrap legal aid in relation to clinical negligence claims. The charity argues that the decision is irrational and unfair.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said “Victims of clinical negligence may need a lifetime of expensive special care so we are clear they must be able to hold those responsible to account. Victims will still have access to solicitors through ‘no win-no fee’ deals, which the government is reforming. We are making special arrangements so that people will be able to insure themselves against the cost of reports if they lose. Importantly, we are also bringing in a rule that will mean, in most cases, victims will not have to meet the other side’s costs if they lose. Victims will be able to receive legal aid to fund the most serious and complex cases, where a ‘no win-no fee’ agreement is not available, and where the failure to provide funding would breach their human rights.”

The NHS Litigation Authority backs the retention of legal aid in such claims. Arguing against the government’s plans the AvMA claims that it will lead to increased costs for the NHS. Chief executive Peter Walsh commented “some of the most vulnerable people in society injured by negligent treatment at the hands of a state body will be denied access to justice. And the NHS will be deprived of the opportunity of learning from mistakes which are often only recognised because of a legal challenge.”

Written by Andrew Hodges

October 4, 2011 at 9:48 am

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Attorney General to warn Justice Minister over legal aid cuts

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Dominic Grieve QC, the Attorney General is to write a letter to Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Minister raising concerns over the government’s proposals to cut legal aid. In particular Mr Grieve will raise the issue of litigants representing themselves and the possible delays this could cause.

The letter follows a meeting Mr Grieve held with family lawyers as part of his role as head of the bar. During that meeting it was made clear to the Attorney General that the legal aid cuts would result in a significant increase in litigants in person which would clog up the courts and cause delays.

Although Mr Grieve understood some of the concerns and has agreed to raise them in his letter he also warned that ultimately it was not his decision and in the current economic climate the government is in a difficult position. Commenting on his meeting he told the Times newspaper: “I told them that I am not in charge of this policy; and also that the Government is not going to change its policy because it is between a rock and a hard place when it comes to funding and what is a widespread perception that there should be cuts to legal aid,”

There has already been considerable criticism from the judiciary in relation to the cuts. In February this year Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge said that they would have serious implications for the quality of justice and for the administration of the justice system”.

Written by Andrew Hodges

October 3, 2011 at 9:44 am

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Increase in legal action against local authorities for inadequate health care caused by cuts

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This week saw the latest action being taken by a family against a local authority for not providing adequate health care and it is believed by the family’s solicitor that the increase in such cases has been caused due to the lack of funding at local authorities.

The parents of four-year old Esme van der Merwes who suffers from the rare brain disorder Rett Syndrome are taking legal action against Central Lancashire Primary Care Trust and the local authority for not providing adequate care for their daughter.

The effects of Rett Syndrome mean that Esme cannot feed herself, walk, crawl and is susceptible to potentially fatal epileptic seizures. Esme’s mother Mary said: “We do not have the correct equipment or nursing help. We have 50 hours a week care during the day. My husband and I take turns to sit up with Esme each night to care for her.”

Gary Hardman, Director of Nursing at NHS Lancashire said: “We understand the family have sought legal advice and have also made a request for additional support, which is being considered.”

Sally Riley who is responsible for running inclusion and disability support at Lancashire County Council, defended the local authority’s record by saying: “We are committed to ensuring families have regular assessments to ensure they receive the support to which they are entitled.”

The family’s solicitor commented: “In the past six months we have had a significant increase in families that have been forced to sue health trusts and councils for care they need.” He also added: “Local authorities are being more stringent about what social services provide and primary care trusts are tightening their belts.”

Written by Andrew Hodges

October 2, 2011 at 9:52 am

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