Legal aid to be slashed by £350m

KEN Clarke, the justice secretary, yesterday unveiled plans to slash Britain’s ballooning legal aid bill by £350m.

In the future, the benefit will be scrapped for civil cases involving divorce, medical negligence and school admissions.

Clarke said the proposed reforms would save £350m by 2014-15.

The current legal aid bill in England and Wales is a staggering £2bn – making it one of the most expensive in the world.

Legal aid for criminal cases would not be affected by the changes, Clarke said.

“It cannot be right that the taxpayer is footing the bill for unnecessary court cases which would never have even reached the courtroom door, were it not for the fact that somebody else was paying,” he told parliament.

Cases involving domestic violence, forced marriage, or where children might be taken into care would still attract legal aid and bereaved families, including those of service personnel, would also be eligible for assistance at inquests.

However, private family cases, issues of clinical negligence, education, employment, and welfare benefits would be excluded except in extreme cases where people’s lives, liberty or homes were at stake.

Under the new system, all those with assets of £1,000 or more would have to pay a minimum of £100 towards their legal costs should their cases be successful.

And to make court cases more affordable, lawyers’ fees will be reduced by 10 per cent.