Letter: Legal aid reform flawed

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The Independent Online
THE Lord Chancellor's proposal to tackle the problems of legally aided medical negligence claims (Report, 5 March) by restricting such cases to specialist lawyers is misconceived.

It fails to deal with the inherently unfair costs rule whereby innocent health authorities are unable to recover their legal expenses; this promotes legal aid "blackmail" where cases are settled for commercial reasons regardless of their merits.

The Legal Aid Board relies on the opinion of the applicant's lawyer in deciding whether or not to fund the case. Such advice is not independent since the lawyer has a financial interest in advancing the claim; he is paid regardless of the outcome.

The conditional fee system has inbuilt incentives to avoid unnecessary litigation and to ensure that claims are properly assessed. Legal aid provides exactly the opposite incentives.

ANTHONY BARTON

London N1

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