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, there is a plan to introduce a Supplementary Legal Aid Scheme, whereby 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 Legal Aid scheme out of damages.
ACAL (Association of Child Abuse Lawyers) and I believe that the proposal is wrong, and should be abandoned for the victims of abuse. We have written a letter to the Ministry of Justice, which you can read here.
To take 25% of an abuse victim’s compensation is tantamount to abusing them all over again.
- Often the abuser was a government employee. To subject the client to abuse, then take some of their compensation off them at the end is wrong.
- 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be in the area of Clinical Negligence, which will be withdrawn from scope
in any event. Thus there is no significant saving to be made, and the
proposed policy is misguided and should be withdrawn.
- Sometimes aggravated, exemplary or punitive damages are awarded to a victim in order to punish the abuser or his/her employers. If the Defendant is a government body, the deduction of money from damages by the Legal Services Commission becomes even more unacceptable as it defeats the whole point of punitive damages in the first place.
To view the proposed letter (in Microsoft Word format - click here)