Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill

Memorandum submitted by WithyKing (LA 84)

It is hoped that these bullet points will assist the draft Bill Committee in considering the impact of the current Bill as drafted upon clinical negligence claims, and in particular upon claims brought on behalf of severely disabled children:

· There is no compensation culture in this country – there is only a perception of one reflected in the in-depth independent research carried out for the last Government – and accepted by Lord Young in his report for the present Government on health and safety.

· The figures from the Legal Services Commission (LSC) which supported the consultation paper on these cuts shows:

o The success rates on clinical negligence cases have increased from 80% to 91%

so the LSC pays out less money on unsuccessful cases year on year;

o Over the same period the net cost of unsuccessful cases at the LSC has decreased by 69%;

o The projected saving to the LSC fund of taking all clinical negligence cases out of scope is £17 million/0.01% of the £150 billion deficit.

· The Law Society has come up with viable alternative ways of saving more money from the legal aid budget than taking cases out of scope.

· If legal aid is withdrawn from all clinical negligence cases, the LSC budget will save £17 million. However,the Department of Health budget, in terms of the increased costs of those cases being run under Conditional Fee Agreements, will be £18.8 million,meaning the proposed "cuts" will actually cost the Government an extra £1.8 million (source: AvMA, independent charity).

· The loss of clinical negligence claims will affect the capacity to learn from experience to benefit the taxpayer-funded NHS.

· Sir Rupert Jackson’s proposed changes to the Conditional Fee Agreement regime, which are part of this Bill, are dependant upon legal aid remaining in place, if access to justice is to be safeguarded.

· While claims on behalf of severely disabled children could be run under Conditional Fee Agreements, unfortunately the costs of those claims, such as expert fees and Court fees have to be paid as the matter goes along – those costs can be £50,000 plus and firms cannot afford to fund those as the claim progresses:

No legal aid for cases involving severely disabled children = no cases = no access to justice.

· The Government funds the NHS and pays its claims – no access to justice through the legal aid cuts = a conflict of interest/abuse of power.

We urge you again to look at the proposed amendment to the Bill provided to the Committee previously.

The proposed amendment to help severely disabled children, by their cases remaining in the scope of legal aid is targeted and reasonable and reflects the unusual and difficult position of these high cost claims which cannot be brought under any amended Conditional Fee Agreement regime.

Taking clinical negligence claims out of the scope of legal aid will not cut costs; it will increase them in terms of the cost to the Department of Health budget.

September 2011

Prepared 9th September 2011