MOJ has made 2 concessions on legal aid-one on legal aid for clinical negligence in obstetrics and one for domestic violence. Not enough but a start. Gazette and Sound Off on this.Follow up coverage posted below :
"Government announces legal aid concessionsWednesday 29 February 2012 by Catherine Baksi
The government has made two key concessions demanded by opponents of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders bill, days before the legislation enters report stage in the House of Lords.
In amendments tabled today, the government accepted that the broad definition of domestic violence used by the Association of Chief Police Officers should be employed in the bill.
This definition makes it clear that physical, psychological and emotional abuse, together with financial abuse in the form of bullying a partner by controlling their finances, will be regarded as domestic violence, enabling a party to receive legal aid.
In a press statement meanwhile, the government, which is replacing legal aid in most private family matters with more money for mediation, also said it accepts that mediation is unlikely to be suitable for victims of domestic violence, and is therefore committed to retaining legal aid in these cases.
The government has also conceded that legal aid should remain automatically available in clinical negligence cases in which negligent treatment or care taking place during pregnancy, or shortly after birth, has resulted in serious neurological injury to the child..........................."
"Legal aid U-turn for brain-damaged babies and domestic violence victimsMinisters give ground on legal aid budget cuts to head off defeat in House of Lords
Owen Bowcott, legal affairs correspondent guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 29 February 2012 18.45 GMT Article history
Children who suffer brain damage at birth and more victims of domestic violence will be entitled to financial support for courtroom claims, the Ministry of Justice has announced in significant concessions to its legal aid bill.
Two amendments were tabled on Wednesday abandoning plans to remove entitlements involving highly emotive cases in the hope of heading off defeat in the House of Lords next week.
The decision follows cross-party talks in the upper house where voting on the report stage of the legal aid, sentencing and punishment of offenders bill is due to start on Monday.
The bill is aimed at saving £350m from the annual budget for civil legal aid but has run into strong opposition from campaigners and peers who claim that it will restrict access to justice for the poorest in society.
After suffering reversals in the Lords over the health and welfare bills, ministers appear anxious to give ground rather than face the prospect of having to overturn more votes in the Commons which risks transforming the bill into a constitutional row........................................."
Government have announced some small but important concessions to the Legal Aid Bill this evening, but Justice for All is clear they do not go far enough.
Ministers have put down amendments to widen the definition of domestic violence contained within the bill so it is in line with that used across the rest of government, and by the Association of Chief Police Officers. This is one of the main changes we have been calling for along with campaign partners including the Women's Institute and Rights of Women, and is extremely welcome. However many victims will still be denied help if the evidence criteria government use to identify domestic violence are too narrow. So the second half of our briefing on the issue is still vital.
The other concession will retain legal aid for newborn babies who are victims of clinical negligence. Again, this has long been expected, particularly after Conservative former cabinet Minister Lord Tebbit signed an amendment to this effect at Committee Stage, but it will still leave many victims of clinical negligence without legal help.
Despite these two amendments, Justice for All is clear that the real test of the Bill will come at Report Stage next week, when crucial votes on retaining legal aid for social welfare law are expected. The changes announced today do nothing for the 78,000 disabled people who will be denied help with welfare benefits appeals, or for people with serious and complex debt, employment, or housing problems.
If you haven't already, please sign up to write to a Peer about these changes, and for information see the latest briefings on issues in the bill. Email Justice For AllJustice for All a coalition of charities, legal and advice agencies, politicians, trade unions, community groups and members of the public.
Post by Colin Henderson on Feb 29, 2012 19:24:26 GMT
Pathetic. Both these were well-trailed and the concessions actually seems to be absolute minimum they could devise.
What about kids who are damaged after birth? Why an 8 week window? What about non-neurological birth injuries? I thought they hinted at all children getting investigative help. It changes very little.
The DV concession is minimal also. The problem is not so much the definition, it's the evidence requirements. Everyone who has ever worked with DV victims knows that if they have to prove the violence they don't get started, and if they know that is a problem, they don't come forward.
These concessions are cynical crumbs to give spineless Lib Dems something to cling to. They are not a genuine attempt to assist DV victims or disabled children. It's just politics. They are an insult to our intelligence. Get hold of the peers and tell them so.
Post by Colin Henderson on Mar 1, 2012 15:37:18 GMT
Yes Douglas, there do appear to be a few others, though it's difficult to pick apart. There seems to be a power to create regulations allowing the grant of legal aid in transitional cases, and some bring back in specific types of immigration decision - I expect ILPA will have something to say on that.
Here is the Labour Party reaction from Sadiq Khan on the main two:
"Labour, and a wide alliance of campaign groups, have raised concerns since the publication of the Tory led government’s Legal Aid Bill. Now, just a matter of days before a critical series of votes in the House of Lords, the Government has offered up some concessions. But this is nothing but spin tactics from a Government out of touch with the lives of ordinary people up and down the country. This Government is more interested in dampening down the prospect of yet more damaging Parliamentary defeats than it is in having a fair justice system to protect the most vulnerable.
Firstly, concessions on the availability of legal aid in cases of domestic violence are a smokescreen. For months, Labour and many women’s groups have been campaigning against the proposals in the Bill. These groups have clearly stated that the key issue is what evidence is accepted as proof of domestic abuse. Even with the Government's changes many genuine victims of abuse will not be helped, despite there being evidence of abuse from reputable sources.
Secondly, on clinical negligence, we will need to consider the proposed amendments in detail, but on the face of it, they do not address our concerns or those of victims’ groups. Expert reports in clinical negligence are very expensive and it is our view that all incidents of clinical negligence should be covered by legal aid.
The alternative proposals we have made mean saving taxpayers money rather than it being simply displaced elsewhere, which is what this Bill will do."
Post by Colin Henderson on Mar 1, 2012 15:42:38 GMT
Here is AVMA's reaction
"The Government have announced that they are to make a partial u-turn on the controversial plan to scrap legal aid for all clinical negligence cases. They are tabling an amendment to the Legal Aid Sentencing & Punishment of Offenders Bill which will retain legal aid "in obstetrics cases which result in severe disability". In other words, babies who have suffered brain damage as a result of negligence in obstetric cases. Action against Medical Accidents ('AvMA') - the charity which has been heading a campaign to preserve legal aid and access to justice for all clinical negligence victims - has welcomed the concession as a step in the right direction, but is demanding that legal aid is retained for all clinical negligence claims and other vital changes to the Bill. The Government has bowed to mounting pressure in an attempt to stave off rebellion by Liberal Democrat and Conservative peers and a likely defeat in a vote in the Lords next week on an amendment to keep all clinical negligence cases in scope for legal aid. The amendment is in the name of Baroness ('Tanni') Grey-Thompson (famous for her paralympic achievements) and other leading peers.
AvMA chief executive Peter Walsh said: "How can it be that a child who suffers a catastrophic injury due to clinical negligence at the age of two, as a toddler or even a teenager is less deserving of access to justice than one who suffers their injury at childbirth? Or, that an older person such as those who suffer the kind of negligence and neglect that people at hospitals like Mid Staffordshire have suffered should not have access to justice? The Government's policy is incoherent and will be deeply damaging to access to justice unless there are bigger changes. Given that they admit they got it wrong with regard to birth cases it would now be completely irrational not to allow legal aid to continue for all people harmed as a result of clinical negligence. This concession has only been brought about as a result of the pressure brought about by our campaign and the powerful arguments made by peers of all political parties. We hope they will keep their resolve and vote for Tanni Grey-Thompson's amendment next week."
AvMA are also highly critical of the Government's plan to take away 25% of clinical negligence victims' compensation payments in order to top up the general fund for legal aid. This is the so called 'supplementary legal aid scheme'. Peter Walsh added: "What the Government are giving with one hand, they are taking away with the other. Whilst we are glad these brain injured babies will now get legal aid it can not be right that the Government should rob them of 25% of the damages that a court has found they need and deserve. This will simply subsidise the wider legal aid budget and most will be used on cases such as immigration and criminal legal aid. This is another change that is urgently required."