Lawyers representing hundreds of people abused in childhood are celebrating after the Government reversed the legal aid policy which would have taken money from victims.
Peter Garsden, Partner at Abney Garsden McDonald and President of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers (ACAL) has received a letter from the Ministry of Justice informing him of their decision not to proceed with implementation of the Supplementary Legal Aid Scheme. This comes after Mr Garsden, along with ACAL, wrote to the Ministry of Justice in July urging them to reconsider their plans.
As part of the government’s proposed changes to the legal aid fund, in an effort to save money and make legal aid self funding, the original plans were to introduce a supplementary legal aid scheme. This meant that at the end of a case, even if it was successful and all money advanced by the Legal Services Commission was repaid, 25% of the claimant’s compensation would have been deducted and paid to the government in an attempt to finance the wider legal aid scheme.
In a letter from the Ministry of Justice Legal Aid Reform Team, Simon MacCulloch said: “Having carefully considered the views expressed in the responses to the stakeholder engagement exercise, and the position regarding child abuse cases, Ministers have decided not to proceed with implementation of the supplementary legal aid scheme from April 2013, as originally envisaged.”
Mr Garsden and other members of ACAL who act on behalf of the survivors of physical, emotional and sexual abuse believed that the proposal was wrong. In their letter to the Ministry of Justice they highlighted the fact that the impact assessment published by the government when the scheme was proposed originally illustrated that the amount saved by the proposed scheme would be minimal in the area of abuse, principally because damages are relatively low in any event. They believed it would have been particularly inappropriate to take compensation off child abuse claimants as in many of the cases represented by ACAL the client has been in the care of government and as such the government is sometimes the defendant in the form of local authorities.
In addition to their letter, Mr Garsden and ACAL urged people to write to their local MPs and express their concerns as part of their campaign. Commenting on the proposed changes Peter Garsden said: “On behalf of all the vulnerable individuals – the victims of abuse, for whom we act for all over the country and worldwide, I am delighted that the lobbying and objections that I put in on behalf of not only my own firm but also the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers, have borne fruit, and that our campaign has succeeded. I always took the view that this idea would not only cost more to administer than it would save, but also would have taken much needed compensation away from those that deserve it most.”