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Where has Legal Aid Gone?

When the Government announced Legal Aid cutbacks back in 2010, their consultation document said,

In the light of the importance of the issue at stake, the seriousness of the alleged harm suffered by the litigant, the likelihood of their vulnerability and the lack of sufficient alternative forms of assistance to justify the withdrawal of legal aid, it is our view that the provision of legal aid funding is justified. We propose that it is retained for these claims.

The changes came into force on 1st April 2013, since which time very few cases where abuse is alleged in childhood have been granted, because the Legal Aid Agency take the view that all cases do not need public funding, because they can be run on the basis of a “No Win No Fee Agreement”. For many reasons Legal Aid will always be better for a victim of abuse, for example:-

  1. In order to fight an abuse case it is necessary to spend several thousand pounds on expenses such as expert reports, court fees etc. Someone eligible for Legal Aid does not have the resources to fund such expenses.
  2. The cost of insuring abuse cases now, since the rules changed, has to come out of compensation. The premiums vary, but on average amount to about £1500.
  3. Success Fees now have to come out of compensation. In Legal Aid cases, however, no success fees apply.

In April, new guidelines came out, which limit considerable those cases where the LAA (Legal Aid Agency) will consider granting public funding. They say, for example, that:-

  1. The fact that Legal Aid is better doesn’t really count as a good reason for having it.
  2. Only those cases where the chances of success are less than 60% will be considered for Legal Aid.
  3. If Insurance is available, then Legal Aid may not be granted.

We are hoping to take a case to judicial review soon, in the hope that the political will to give public funds to the victims of abuse will be honoured by the Legal Aid Agency. Please support us by writing a letter to your MP (to see who your MP is click here). A copy is available to download in Microsoft Word Format here. Otherwise please copy and paste the text below.