After finally receiving Royal Assent, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act will become law on 1 April 1st, 2013.
Most of the highly contentious clauses remain and now that the fight to stop many parts the bill has been well and truly lost, more attention can be paid to some of the less well-known changes that will be introduced by this new piece of legislation.
One of the planned changes that’s causing particular concern to our medical negligence team refers to the so-called Supplementary Legal Aid Scheme – under which applies [the body that controls public funding ie legal aid] will be able to recover a full 25% of any damages that are awarded to clients whose medical compensation claim is successful. This swingeing “tax” will apparently apply to all compensatory damages – with the sole exception of any damages or did for future care and loss. This will make a massive reduction in the damages actually received by any victims of medical negligence. Faced with a claim that looks almost certain to succeed – what will medical negligence solicitors advise? Could it be that they will conclude that is not in the client’s interests to apply for legal aid – as otherwise the victim of medical negligence will face an automatic deduction of up to 25% of their damages. We appreciate these are times of significant austerity – but is this really justice?