Representatives of the “Sound Off For Justice” campaign have claimed that proposed cuts in the amount of financial assistance given to claimants in UK civil cases could have devastating consequences for the victims of medical malpractice.
Legal Aid has been available for citizens of the UK ever since the end of the Second World War, but the cost of providing this facility has now spiralled out of control according to the Secretary of State for Justice, Ken Clarke. The current level of Legal Aid in the UK costs the taxpayer more than 2 billion pounds each year, and Mr Clarke would like to see this figure reduced by 350 million pounds before 2015.
This would still mean that Britain spends more money on Legal Aid than any other country in the world however justice campaigners have highlighted the case of Andrew Green from Grimsby as the type of legal claim which would no longer receive financial assistance.
Andrew was born in 1997 with cerebral palsy due to medical staff’s delays in dealing with complications during his delivery. Because his family qualified for Legal Aid, they were able to pay for an in-depth investigation into the circumstances of his birth and eventually secure compensation which will cover the cost of Andrew´s care for the rest of his life.
Campaigners claim that cuts to the programme could leave many families financially unable to claim compensation where medical negligence has occurred. Lawyers supporting the “Sound Off For Justice” campaign also claim that victims in cases involving divorce, employment law and other forms of professional malpractice will also suffer.
Officials from the Ministry of Justice say that no final decision has been made on the future of the Legal Aid programme following a public consultation period which attracted more than 5,000 responses.