Clampdown on abuse of legal aid by the wealthy

A clampdown on the abuse of the legal aid system by wealthy people was announced by the Lord Chancellor yesterday. In future, officials will be able to take into account the assets of the applicants' relatives and friends if it appears they are substantially benefiting from their financial help.

The changes, which are likely to come into effect in June, were revealed by Lord Mackay of Clashfern as it emerged an armed robber had been granted legal aid to sue police officers who shot him during a Post Office van hold-up.

Steve Charalambous, who was jailed for five years in September 1993, is suing the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Condon for pounds 250,000 compensation. At his Old Bailey trial, Charalambous, 35, of Finsbury Park, north London, admitted conspiracy to rob and firearms offences after the February 1993 raid.

He was shot three times by police marksmen after he ignored calls to drop his gun, which proved to be an imitation weapon. In his writ, Charalambous says the police committed unlawful assault and trespass to the person and claims damages for "excruciating pain, fear, shock and lasting emotional distress".

A spokeswoman for the Lord Chancellor's department said she could not comment on an individual case, but anyone was eligible for legal aid if they met the criteria in their application. Under the changes, announced by Lord MacKay in a written answer to a Parliamentary Question yesterday, officials will also be allowed to take the value of property into account.

The Legal Aid Board has disregarded the applicant's home until now, but, under the new rules, it can take into the account the value of a property over pounds 100,000. A special investigations unit will be set up to investigate complex cases.

The measures to curb the entitlement of the wealthy follows the controversy sparked by aid granted to people such as Kevin and Ian Maxwell, Asil Nadir and Ernest Saunders. The reforms will cover both civil and criminal cases, although the main aim is to reduce the cost of civil cases, which consumed about two-thirds of this year's pounds 1.4bn legal aid budget.

Mike Bennett, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said the decision to grant Charalambous legal aid was an example of "a world gone mad".

"We have got a system in this country where the goodies are the baddies and the baddies are the goodies. I hope the Metropolitan Police vigorously defends this. All this is doing is putting money into lawyers' pockets," he said. "If this claim succeeds then I think a lot of my members will have to go back to the drawing board in terms of being officers and in terms of what they stand for."

News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Sport
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
i100
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Litigation NQ+

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE NQ to MID LEVEL - An e...

MANCHESTER - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION -

Highly Attractive Pakage: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - A highly attractive oppor...

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?