Peter Garsden, Partner at Abney Garsden McDonald and President of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers (ACAL) has written to the Ministry of Justice urging them to reconsider their plans to introduce a supplementary legal aid scheme. 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, it is planned to introduce a supplementary legal aid scheme. This means that at the end of a case, even if it is successful and all money advanced by the Legal Services Commission is repaid, 25% of the claimant’s compensation will be deducted and paid to the government in order to try and finance the wider legal aid scheme.
Mr Garsden and other members of ACAL who act on behalf of the survivors of physical, emotional and sexual abuse believe that the proposal is wrong, and should be abandoned for the victims of abuse. In their letter to the Ministry of Justice they highlight 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. The largest saving to the legal aid fund would be in the area of clinical negligence, which will be withdrawn from the legal aid scheme and so no significant saving will be made.
They believe it is 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.
Commenting on the proposed changes Peter Garsden said: “I find it extremely concerning that the government on the one hand supports the victim of abuse pursuing a case against those responsible by giving them legal aid, and then, on the other hand wants to take some of their well deserved compensation off them at the end. In my view the proposed scheme is abusive in itself, and unacceptable. To take money out of a client’s damages to fund other parts of the legal aid budget is iniquitous.”
We are urging people to support our campaign. For a suggested letter that you can send you your own MP visit the campaign link through ACAL’s website (http://www.childabuselawyers.com/).