No win, no fee – no legal aid?

by Peter Wozniak

Legal aid for all compensation cases should be eliminated as part of a cost-cutting exercise, according to a prominent think tank.

The Adam Smith Institute (ASI) argued that the current system is geared towards claimants making apparently risk-free claims via the ‘no-win-no-fee’ system and represents poor value for money for the tax-payer.

Tom Clougherty, the think tank’s executive director said: “The current system of civil litigation in the UK is unfairly stacked in favour of claimants.

“We need to address the risk-free, compensation culture and the excessive costs it brings with it.”

Measures suggested by the free market thinktank included the capping of costs extracted from defendants in compensation cases and a full review of how legal aid is funded.

Mr Clougherty suggested the low risk to the claimants in compensation cases encourages them to bring cases speculatively.

“The reforms we’ve proposed will save the taxpayer money while also ensuring a system of funding access to justice that is simple, robust and fair,” he said.

“It’s a win-win that the government should be tempted to go for.”

Mr Clougherty’s comments drew strong opposition from Kirsten Anderson, head of research at the Children’s Legal Centre.

“Children need free, high quality legal representation to pursue claims for compensation where they have suffered harm or a violation of their rights. Legal aid is the best and fairest way to ensure that all children have access to justice,” she said.

“Civil legal aid covers the cost of a huge amount of vital legal services, not just the so-called ‘compensation culture’.”

Whilst agreeing that legal aid services required a complete review, she argued that “it would be wrong to take away access to justice for the country’s young people”.

Legal aid last entered the headlines when MPs accused of abusing their expenses tried to use it for their legal battle.

At the time, David Cameron pledged to prevent such a use from occurring again, suggesting the prime minister may be sympathetic to the Institute’s demands.