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."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Ashdown Group: Accountant - London - £48,000 - 12 month FTC

£40000 - £48000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: International Acc...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power