Fighting For Justice

The government is proposing an overhaul of the civil justice procedure through its ‘Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill’. Under the new proposals the government will introduce legislation to make it harder for innocent victims of injury and illness to secure compensation which is so important to help them rebuild their lives. In an attempt to persuade the government to change its mind on the proposed reforms to civil justice, which will see thousands of injured people lose out as a result of the ‘Justice Bill’, Irwin Mitchell have set up the ‘Don’t Cut Justice Campaign’.

Through the Don’t Cut Justice Campaign we hope to make the government reconsider its proposals in the Bill which will, in our view, turn back the clock on access to justice in this country. By removing Legal Aid for clinical negligence cases and through changes to personal injury funding which would see victims having to pay some of their legal fees from their compensation, is a change which we think would be unjust.

Across the country we represent hundreds of clients whose claims would not have been possible without this vital Legal Aid funding. One such case is that of Ruby, who suffers from athetoid cerebral palsy which was caused when her brain was starved of oxygen as a result of staff failures during birth.

Ruby, now six, from Leeds, suffered brain damage when her mother’s uterus was ruptured during her delivery, and she now suffers from cerebral palsy which affects all four limbs. Ruby has involuntary movements in her arms and legs, and requires help with all aspects of daily living including personal care, feeding, play and education. Despite her significant physical disabilities Ruby is very bright and uses her knee to operate a switch for her communication aids and a joy stick to operate her wheelchair.

Ruby’s parents are now pursuing a claim against the hospital in question, to gain compensation to provide the care, rehabilitation and support that she requires for the rest of her life. However, this claim would not have been possible if Legal Aid was not available to Ruby’s family.

Ruby’s mother Lisa says: “Ruby is an amazing little girl, and we are so proud of her. It's heartbreaking to see her unable to do so many of the things the majority of us take for granted. Ruby’s condition affects every aspect of her life, and she needs assistance on a constant basis. Any cuts to Legal Aid will affect those who are most in need of help from accessing the law and will deprive the most vulnerable.”

Another of our legally-aided cases was also used by the Shadow Justice Minister Andy Slaughter as an example of why Legal Aid should not be cut. Sophie Tyler, from Newport was only 14 years old when she was admitted to hospital for a gall stone procedure, but was left permanently paralysed from the waist down after an epidural device was mistakenly left in her spine for two days.

Other than suffering from gallstones, Sophie was a very healthy and active young girl. She is now unable to walk again and she will require specialist care and support for the rest of her life.

Tim Deeming, a medical law expert in Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office who is representing Sophie and her family, commented: “Sophie and her family have been devastated by what has happened. Although no amount of compensation will ever turn back the clock for Sophie, the Trust’s full admission of liability now paves the way for a settlement which will provide Sophie with financial support to pay for the special equipment and care she now needs.”

He added: “This is an important case which has allowed our client to access justice and secure the lifetime of future care she needs but it would not have been possible without the support of Legal Aid.”

We are continuing to lobby MPs and Lords in the coming weeks and months to do everything we can to protect our clients. In addition, at the recent political party conferences Irwin Mitchell hosted a table at each party’s conference dinner, joined by guests from charities we regularly work with to help drive home our view – and theirs - that the government’s reforms are misguided, go too far and will hit the most vulnerable the hardest.

It is highly important to protect access to justice to ensure that the next child who suffers cerebral palsy or the next person who suffers brain damage after a road traffic collision through the fault of another party is able to access the best independent legal advice and if successful recover their compensation in full to help provide the lifetime of care he needs.

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