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Milly Dowler parents join Yeates's landlord to oppose legal aid cuts

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Milly Dowler parents join Yeates's landlord to oppose legal aid cuts

Post  Annabel on Tue 1 Nov - 8:01

Robert Murat is co-signatory of a letter to the Guardian, opposing Legal Aid Cuts:-


Milly Dowler parents join Yeates's landlord to oppose legal aid cuts

Letter to Guardian stresses vital role of no win-no fee deals and warns that reform denies justice to people of 'ordinary means'

Owen Bowcott, legal affairs correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Monday 31 October 2011 20.39 GMT
Article history

Sally and Bob Dowler
The parents of Milly Dowler were shocked by the NoW phone hacking revelations, according to their lawyer. Photograph: David Crump/PA

The parents of the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler and the former landlord of Joanna Yeates have warned that plans to reform no win-no fee agreements will prevent people of "ordinary means" from obtaining justice or defending themselves in court.

They are among signatories of a letter released to the Guardian as the legal aid, sentencing and punishment of offenders bill – which the justice secretary, Kenneth Clarke, believes will do away with the "compensation culture" – returns to the Commons this week for its report stage.

The letter says: "We are all ordinary citizens who found ourselves in a position of needing to obtain justice by taking or defending civil claims against powerful corporations or wealthy individuals.

"We would not have been in a position to do this without recourse to a 'no win, no fee' agreement with a lawyer willing to represent us on that basis. As was made clear to each of us at the beginning of our cases, we were liable for tens if not hundreds of thousands of pounds if we lost.

"Without access to a conditional fee agreement (CFA), which protected us from this risk, we would not have been able even to embark on the legal journey."

Signatories to the letter, which has been co-ordinated by the media campaign Hacked Off, include Christopher Jefferies, the retired Bristol teacher defamed by the tabloids during the Yeates murder inquiry, and Bob and Sally Dowler, whose daughter's voicemail was hacked into by the News of the World. Others who have added their name are Peter Wilmshurst, a cardiologist sued for criticising research at a US medical conference; Robert Murat, who lived near the scene of Madeleine McCann's disappearance in Portugal and who sued British TV stations and newspapers for libel; and Mary-Ellen Field, Zoe Margolis, Nigel Short and Hardeep Singh.

All of them have had to resort to CFAs to seek justice.

The Ministry of Justice proposals will remove the ability of claimants to recover their costly insurance premiums and their own lawyers' success fees from losing defendants.

Instead, the costs will have to be paid out of any final award for damages. Opponents of the change, such as Hacked Off, warn that it will render the cost of seeking redress through the courts no longer financially viable and restrict access to justice.

Sally Dowler said: "At the outset we made clear that if we had to pay the lawyers, we could not afford to bring a claim; or if we had any risk of having to pay the other side's costs, we couldn't take the chance. If the proposed changes had been in place at that time we would not have made a claim. Simple as that, the News of the World would have won, because we could not afford to take them on."

The letter calls on MPs to support an amendment to the bill tabled by the Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake, which would exclude privacy and defamation cases from the reform of CFAs.

Supporters point out that damages in privacy cases, for example, can be small and would rarely cover the cost of what might be a protracted legal case. Hacked Off is a campaign calling for a full public inquiry into phone hacking. Mary-Ellen Field used to work for the model Elle Macpherson; her phone was hacked. The writer Zoe Margolis sued a Sunday newspaper after it libelled her.

Dr Evan Harris, from the Hacked Off campaign which is working with the signatories to save CFAs in libel and privacy cases, said: "If these reforms go ahead in their current form the government will be making justice impossible for all but the rich. That may suit the tabloid interests and libel bullies but it's not fair."

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Re: Milly Dowler parents join Yeates's landlord to oppose legal aid cuts

Post  LJC on Tue 1 Nov - 23:24

I have made a no win, no fee claim myself, when I felt I had unfairly lost my job. I won an out of court settlement. To me, it was a wonderful feeling. My former company knew they were in the wrong, otherwise why were they afraid to go into court with me? My solicitors kept me up to date every step of the way.

However, some of the claims are ridiculous. Anyone who trips, slips, has a minor bump in their car, etc, etc. can claim compensation.

It is not about genuine people and genuine legal claims, like the Dowlers and all those named above. It is about the ordinary guy who has the misfortune to run into the back of someone and that someone can then make a claim against him. It is about greedy lawyers who get their cut.

I agree that something has to be done on the no win, no fee situation, protecting and still offering a service to those who have a genuine need of such a service, but cutting out all those who are encouraged to make a speculative claim.

My son himself had someone run into the back of him. It was an old guy and his wife. They were so upset by it. Afterwards, my son had phone calls coming out of his ears from legal firms. Of course, he made a claim and went for his medical, and it was confirmed he had minor whiplash symptoms and of course he got his compensation. However, he agrees he felt fortunate, he agrees there but for the grace of God go all of us, he could not believe his luck in fact that he was able to make such a claim. He did not even realise he could until the phone started ringing. He admitted that if he were not out of work at the time, he may not have bothered with it at all, but as he was hard up the compensation came in handy.

I myself wished my son well with his money, but felt uncomfortable all the same. It pushes all of our insurance premiums up, any of us could find we have a claim made against us. It is so easy to run into the back of someone, isn't it?

The system has been abused is my conclusion, even though my son feels fortunate as a result. His view is, I think, if its there why not make a claim. Is it right though?

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