I wanted to write to you and express my dismay at your comments in the press this week:-
“What we have marching towards us is an army of lawyers advancing behind a line of women and children saying, of course, they're not concerned about the income of the profession, they're only concern is these vulnerable clients who would be adversely affected if they're not paid at the rate they currently are".
I was deeply offended by what you said.
I am one of your “lawyers advancing…………..” and am against your proposals for removal of legal aid for clinical negligence claimants and even more so against the idea of taking up to 25% of a Claimants damages for a success fee. I have never been in this game for money. I have always carried out this job so that I can help accident victims. That is my first priority and always has been. I have a real passion for helping accident victims.
Only this morning I spent 2 hours with an 18 year old and her mother talking about her child abuse possible claim which will be “free time” for which I will recover nothing. This is not unusual as it happens most weeks, providing free advice to potential clients. I help at the CAB too. Last week I was in the High Court with John Foy QC settling a £9m plus RTA claim for a young lady who was knocked down by a car in 1996. Liability was only resolved in the Court of Appeal and the Defendants only came up with an offer acceptable (approximately £500,000 more than their previous offer) 2 days before trial (we were listed for 7 days about which see below). This was one of the last legal aid cases for personal injury, possibly in the country I would imagine. We needed to provide the Claimant with enough by way of income from her lump sum (and Periodical Payments Order) for her care regime for the rest of her life. How could I ever have taken away any of her damages for a success fee? How could my practice (or indeed any other) run that case (with a legal bill of over £1m) now?
Whilst talking about this case you may be interested to know 2 other points of interest. Firstly the discount rate currently set at 2.5% is going to mean that it will be a real struggle to bring in sufficient funds to pay for all her outgoings let alone taking some of her damages for losses. If it were not for her loving parents putting their lives on hold to care for her then she would really struggle. All because of someone else’s negligence and you want to deny people like her access to justice, Justice Secretary!
Finally the same case had leading counsel for both sides (plus a junior) and 4 leading experts in their field yet the court would not provide a fixture for the hearing, notwithstanding a joint application from the parties to do so. Hence we had experts (and counsel/clients/witnesses) all waiting on the whim of a court listing, which had still not come through 2 days before. I would estimate that this will have cost at least an extra £20,000, payable by the Defendant, onto the costs which would not have been incurred if the experts could have been given a fixture and booked other work in when they knew they would not be required.
I am not alone in these sentiments.
On my wall is a commitment to accident victims which tells them I will put their interests first and I do, with pride.
I thought you should know that there are in fact a great many people with similar sentiments to me. I would hazard to guess the wider public, if properly informed would actually be horrified at your plans.
If you would like to respond or discuss matters with me then please feel free to.
Simon Bransby F Inst L Ex