Underdogs' solicitor locked out of legal aid

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The Independent Online

Yvonne Hossack, a solicitor who has specialised in fighting battles for the elderly and disabled, lost her appeal yesterday against a decision to deny her firm any legal aid contracts in the coming year.

It is feared that the decision could mean disaster for thousands of highly vulnerable people who do not have enough money to pay their legal costs, including residents of care homes who face eviction as local councils struggle to save money.

Her applications for legal aid were rejected last month by the Legal Services Commission (LSC) because of a typing error in the forms submitted by her firm. Privately, LSC staff say they came to the decision reluctantly, but that strict rules covering the bidding process for legal aid contracts did not allow them to contact Ms Hossack and have the mistakes corrected.

Her firm has acted for more than 2,000 elderly or disabled clients, and has successfully opposed plans by local councils to close care homes. She claimed in court that the LSC was unable to find enough solicitors prepared to take on her firm's workload.

But in the High Court, Mr Justice Mitting ruled against her, and ordered her to pay the Commission legal costs of £1,079.