BAR COUNCIL ON LEGAL AID
13 Dec, 2011
BAR COUNCIL CALLS ON GOVERNMENT TO SUPPORT PRINCIPLE OF CONTINGENT LEGAL AID FUNDS
The Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, has today published a report it commissioned from economic consultants Europe Economics, which has found that the concept of Contingent Legal Aid Funds (CLAF) has merit and should be taken forward as one of a number of sources of potential funding for civil litigation.
The viability of a CLAF has not been subjected to serious quantitative analysis until now. The debate on litigation funding has intensified as the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill is debated by Parliament. The Bill’s proposals to make dramatic cuts to legal aid will create a gap in access to justice if implemented in their current form. The report concludes that the viability of any CLAF can only be assessed financially when the reforms to Conditional Fee Agreements (CFAs) have had time to work in practice. In short the report has two messages. The Government should take some modest steps to facilitate the creation of CLAFs. But it should not pray in aid the concept as somehow making good the damage being done to access to justice for civil litigation.
Peter Lodder QC (pictured), Chairman of the Bar, said: “Effective access to justice is at the heart of a free democracy: it is critical to the political and economic health of this country. Faced with continuing legal aid cuts, we cannot turn back the clock to the days when only the very wealthy could afford to litigate to obtain redress for harm caused by others’ wrongdoings; a Contingent Legal Aid Fund can probably help. We invite the Government to take this report seriously, support the concept and provide necessary encouragement for its promoters.”