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Firm meets local MP to discuss legal aid changes


Katie Donne and Clare Cox, of Barcan Woodward’s clinical negligence and family law teams, have met with Stephen Williams MP, constituency MP for Bristol West, to discuss the consequences of parliament passing the LASPO bill last week.

Reforms in the LASPO (Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders) bill will mean that all cases concerning divorce  finance, disputes within families about children (subject to exceptions), and most medical negligence cases will be removed from the scope of legal aid funding. It will also restrict legal aid in other areas such as housing, immigration and welfare benefits.

Mr Williams voted with the government on all of the amendments to the LASPO bill proposed by the House of Lords, including those that apply to victims of clinical negligence and industrial disease, including asbestos related disease.

When the act is implemented, anticipated to be in 2013, far fewer people will be eligible for legal aid. This means that many people who currently receive legal assistance to see their children, resolve finances on relationship breakdown or to obtain a divorce or civil partnership dissolution, will need to pay privately.

Victims of medical negligence have suffered a double whammy, in that the government have also changed the traditional ‘no win, no fee’ agreement, thereby restricting access to justice.  The clinical negligence team here at Barcan Woodward is determined to make the new system work in favour of their clients, however this will not be an easy task.

In addition, the family team are looking at ways to provide a low cost advice service for those family clients who will no longer be eligible for public funding.

Following an interesting exchange of views, Mr Williams agreed that he would try to assist those constituents who were no longer able to access legal advice as a result of these changes. He also stressed that he’d be keen to understand the impact of the restrictions being placed on legal aid funding, particularly where it means people cannot obtain alternate advice to assist them in addressing their problems.

If these changes affect you and you are a Bristol West resident, we would encourage you to contact Mr Williams. You can write to him, or he holds regular advice surgeries for constituents, details of which are available through his website.

If you would like to speak to Katie about the issues raised with Mr Williams, you can call our King Street office on 0117 925 8080.

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