Law Firm Attacks Legal Aid Reforms

A Leeds law firm has criticised the proposed government reforms to legal services which, it claims, will adversely affect the more vulnerable members of society.

The Claims Connection says it is important that all have the opportunity to get justice and this will be undermined by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LAPSO) Act, currently going through Parliament, which will dramatically restrict the legal aid support for individuals. The act will stop legal aid for those with claims relating to issues including family law, welfare benefits and medical negligence.

The Ministry of Justice has said that patients wanting to launch medical negligence claims will not lose out as a result of the changes because their cases will be picked up by no win, no fee solicitors. However, research from the charity Action against Medical Accidents suggests only about half of cases currently taking place would be taken up by law firms, with the rest being rejected as they would be considered too complex and risky.

Ministers have also raised proposals to increase the upper limit of the small claims track up to £5,000 from the current £1,000, which is part of measures aimed at reducing the number of whiplash cases seen in the UK every year. The government says it will cut fraud and benefit honest drivers but laws firms insist the plans will backfire and will result in courts being "flooded" with litigants in person - people representing themselves in court - because they cannot afford to hire a reputable law firm.

The Claims Connection said it welcomed plans for stronger medical diagnoses but was concerned that the cost would be disproportionate.

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