Letter: The case for legal aid

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The Independent Online
The case for legal aid

Martin McKenna perpetuates the myth that civil legal aid for compensation claims is granted to undeserving cases (report, 4 February).

I am a partner in a legal aid practice. It is very difficult to obtain legal aid for a client who has a fighting chance. It is easier to obtain legal aid for a client who is almost certain to win. Unless a client has more than a 75 per cent chance of winning, he will not get legal aid.

Further, Mr McKenna perpetuates the myth that businesses end up paying for the legal advice they receive in defending claims. Most businesses have legal expenses insurance and if they do not, then they ought to obtain it.

Claims for personal injury, according to the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, cost the Legal Aid Fund about pounds 55,213,348 and the Government receives from the compensator (usually an insurance company) about pounds 67m in repayment of benefits received by the injured party as a result of the injuries suffered. Civil legal aid spent on personal injury cases is therefore money well spent. The total amount of compensation recovered in 1995/96 was pounds 518,584,482 and most of this will have been paid by insurers.

The Lord Chancellor, the Home Secretary and his ministers are attacking legal aid and those lawyers who work within its confines without producing any real evidence that legal aid is abused by applicants or lawyers.

A M ROBINSON

Pearson Caulfield Solicitors

Newcastle upon Tyne

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