Great letter from the Dowler Family on Guardian site asking Cameron if he wants to be the PM that takes rights away from ordinary people? There is a detailed article in the Guardian followed by a scanned copy of the letter links to both below. Needless to say the BBC is not covering this.
"Milly Dowler's family urges Cameron to rethink legal reformsLetter from family of murdered teenager to PM says new law might have prevented them suing News International
Owen Bowcott, legal affairs correspondent guardian.co.uk, Thursday 22 September 2011 18.04 BST Article history
The family of Milly Dowler, the murdered teenager whose mobile phone was hacked by the News of the World, has written to the prime minister urging him to abandon legal reforms that will prevent victims suing for compensation.
The direct appeal to David Cameron comes two months after they met in Downing Street at the height of the phone-hacking scandal and includes the plea: "We are sure you do not want to go down in history as the prime minister who took rights away from ordinary people."
The letter, released to the Guardian, highlights mounting political anxiety over the effect of the government's legal aid, sentencing and punishment of offenders bill (Laspo) which is going through its committee stage in the Commons.
Earlier this week, the Liberal Democrat conference in Birmingham passed a motion condemning the coalition government's plans to deprive those challenging welfare benefit decisions of access to legal aid.
As well as containing proposals for slicing £350m a year out of the legal aid budget and withdrawing support for even medical negligence cases, the Ministry of Justice's bill will ban "no win, no fee" agreements – also known as conditional fee agreements (CFAs) – in their present form.
Claimants' ability to recover expensive insurance premiums and their own lawyers' success fees from losing defendants will be abolished. Instead, the costs will have to be paid out of any final award for damages.
Opponents of the change, such as the Sound Off for Justice campaign, warn that it will render the cost of seeking redress through the courts no longer financially viable and restrict access to justice.
The Dowler family's intervention in the debate is highly embarrassing for No 10 and the MoJ. In July, the Guardian revealed that the News of the World hacked into the mobile phone of Milly Dowler, who disappeared at the age of 13 on her way home in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, on 21 March 2002. Messages were deleted, giving her parents false hopes that she might still be alive. This week it was revealed that News International, publishers of News of the World, had offered £3m in compensation and payments to charities.
The Dowlers' letter to Cameron declares: "We could not have [reached a settlement] without a 'no win, no fee' agreement … We understand that the new law will affect thousands of people who want to sue News International and other newspapers.
"We had understood that you were on the side of the people not the press. Please do not change the law so that the ability to sue papers is lost …
"We are sure that you do not want to go down in history as the prime minister who took rights away from ordinary people so that large companies could print whatever they like and break the law without [anyone] being able to challenge them." A copy of the letter has also been sent to the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg.
A co-ordinated statement from Sound Off for Justice, which is supported by the solicitors' body, The Law Society, says the government's legal reforms will "cut access to justice for millions of middle income families and individuals in the UK".
"The only winners from the government's changes in legislation will be insurance companies that will pay less or not at all for genuine accidents, health operators that avoid paying for their clinical negligence and big business," it says.
"The losers will be normal families and people like the Dowlers and other victims of 'wrongdoing' by organisations or individuals that are wealthier. The changes will create a legal arms war with the richest winning."
Des Hudson, chief executive of the Law Society, said: "[The Dowlers] have succeeded in making it clear to the prime minister and his deputy that it is ordinary families with terrible life challenges that will be impacted the most.
"They are the losers. As a society we need to protect them and their access to justice. The government must stop and listen today."
Mark Lewis, the solicitor who represented the Dowler family, said: "This is all about access to justice. Individuals, be they poor or rich, do not have the financial might to stand up to the super rich, and powerful corporations. Without CFAs ordinary people cannot afford to challenge what is said about them and what is done to them. It is not just that money talks but that it can stop you and me from answering back.