Board rapped in BMA letter

DOCTORS have accused the Legal Aid Board of unrealistically raising the hopes of medical negligence plaintiffs by handing out legal aid casually.

The claim, made in the British Medical Association's response to Lord Mackay's legal aid Green Paper, has been met with fury by personal injury lawyers and prompted a vigorous LAB defence of procedures.

In a letter seen by The Lawyer, the BMA claims “the current 'merits' test is failing to discriminate adequately between good and bad cases”.

It adds there is evidence that “legal aid certifying committees tend to view many applications with a lack of rigour and give an excessive benefit of the doubt to those seeking legal aid when a more careful analysis would demonstrate the case was most unlikely to succeed”.

Leigh Day & Co's Russell Levy, of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, said the claim was “misguided, ill-informed and not based on a true understanding of the situation”.

An LAB spokeswoman said: “If there is a problem we think it lies more with the nature of medical negligence claims and the limited information available at the outset, not with the quality of decision making.”

But the Law Society's head of professional policy Russell Wallman said the society's response to the Green Paper, published next week, would propose a more efficient legal aid system.