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Disabled children will be hardest hit by legal aid reforms

One of the region’s top lawyers has condemned the government’s planned reforms to Legal Aid as unworkable and unfair.

One of the region’s top lawyers has condemned the government’s planned reforms to Legal Aid as unworkable and unfair.

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill was introduced by Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Kenneth Clarke on 21st June and will remove the availability of legal aid for clinical negligence claims.

Angela Curran, a top-ranked clinical negligence solicitor and Partner at Burnetts in Newcastle, Carlisle & West Cumbria says the Bill will remove access to justice for the most vulnerable people in society: profoundly disabled children.

Angela advises the families of children who have been severely brain-damaged at birth due to clinical negligence. She is also a Trustee of the Percy Hedley Foundation and the North East Special Needs Network. She said, “These children have very complex cases and we usually need detailed and specialist medical evidence to prove their claims. As a result, the experts’ reports can easily cost tens of thousands of pounds. Without Legal Aid, the children I represent would not be able to bring claims for damages to fund their long-term care and give them financial security. It is extremely unfair that children who have been injured in the care of the State will not now have access to the means to hold the State to account.”

Angela  continued, “ My hope is that the  insurance industry will somehow come up with a product to fill the funding gap but the reality is that most families with a disabled child will only be able to afford minimal costs. Otherwise only the very rich will be able to fund such specialist and difficult claims.”

The Bill has been widely criticised by others in the legal profession.  Des Hudson, chief executive of the Law Society said “[The] planned legislation will disproportionately impact upon the most needy and the least able to defend themselves by effectively scrapping social welfare law from the legal aid scheme”

The charity for patient safety and justice, Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA) points out that a saving of £17 million pounds from the Legal Aid budget will result in a cost of least £18.8 million to the NHS as they will now be liable for the fees of claimants.  AvMA chief executive Peter Walsh said, “It is time for a rethink. Clinical negligence must be treated as a special case.”

23rd June 2011


Notes to Editor

For further details about AvMA visit http://www.avma.org.uk/data/files/news/2nd_press_release________________20_06_11___________for_immediate_release.pdf?utm_campaign=AvMA+NEWS+ALERT+20.6.11&utm_source=AVMA&utm_medium=email

For further information on Angela Curran’s credentials visit http://www.chambersandpartners.com/UK/Editorial/38964#per_37624

Published: Thursday 23rd June 2011

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