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Will YOU have access to justice when you need it?

Yesterday, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Kenneth Clarke made two proposals that will if implemented, seriously affect access to justice for people injured in the course of medical treatment. First was the proposal to end legal aid for clinical negligence, education and welfare claims. This will have an impact on ALL people with disabilities including those injured by medical accidents.

Second was the proposal to end the system where claimants can recover nearly all their costs from defendants if their case is successful. If this proposal goes ahead claimants will suffer large deductions from their damages, damages that are designed to compensate them for their injury and pay for accommodation and care they need as a result of that injury.

This second proposal comes from recommendations of Sir Rupert Jackson published by the Labour government in December last year. However it is clear that Sir Rupert did not envisage abolition of legal aid to go hand in hand with his recommended reforms as in his report he says:-

‘I do not make any recommendation in this chapter for the expansion or restoration of legal aid. I do however, stress the vital necessity of making no further cutbacks in Legal Aid availability of eligibility… the maintenance of legal aid at no less than the present levels makes sound sense and is in the public interest ‘

While this second proposal will only affect claimants whose solicitors act for them under a no win no fee arrangement, the number of people whose legal fees are covered in this way will increase considerably if legal aid is abolished. These reforms will have the greatest impact on children and the most seriously injured.

Jo is a Partner specialising in catastrophic personal injury and clinical negligence claims.

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