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Paul Sankey: Legal Aid Reform

‘After the defence of the realm, the next duty the state owes to its citizens is the provision of justice. This comes before health, education and housing, all important duties but not so life fundamental as the provision of justice…’ So says Robin de Wilde QC commenting on the government’s plans to withdraw access to justice for many of the most vulnerable.
The government’s plan to cut legal aid for clinical negligence is said to make savings by cutting probably just £11 million from its budget. Put in context, government debt is £966 billion. If I have my maths right for every £1,000 of debt, cutting legal aid for clinical negligence will save us 1p.
Aside from the sheer injustice of depriving the most needy victims of justice – most of the costs of legal aid are for severely brain-damaged babies – the economics simply do not work. Costs cut in one place lead to increased costs elsewhere. Parents who may otherwise have worked will have to claim benefits and become full-time carers. Services that would have been provided privately will fall to the state: the state will have to fund armies of doctors, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, home-carers and the list goes on.
Our society has forgotten the lessons of history. It has taken for access to justice for granted so much so that the injustice of legal aid cuts arouse only muted criticism. But sadly when people find themselves injured by someone’s lack of care they realise quite why Robin de Wilde values justice above everything other than the defence of the realm.

Paul Sankey is a solicitor specialising in clinical negligence. If you or a member of your family have a clinical negligence enquiry please call our expert clinical negligence solicitors on 0800 916 9049, fill in our short online claim form or email and one of our specialist clinical negligence team will be in touch.