Child abuse lawyers form group to campaign against legal aid cuts

An association of lawyers specialising in child abuse cases was formed last week to campaign against the withdrawal of legal aid for personal injury claims involving child abuse.

The Association of Child Abuse Lawyers (ACAL) branded as “appalling” the Government's response so far to individual approaches by child abuse lawyers.

Peter Garsden, a partner with Cheadle firm Abney Garsden McDonald who set up ACAL, said grouping together would give them “more power to fight the Lord Chancellor's Department, which has been so far almost entirely unsympathetic”.

He said child abuse was different to other PI claims because the victim had not simply suffered an accident. “Largely poor and vulnerable victims with psychological problems are much less likely to come forward without legal aid than someone with, for example, whiplash.”

ACAL will also press for changes in the law to make it easier for victims of child abuse to claim compensation, such as relaxing the statute of limitation for child abuse cases beyond three years and establishing no-fault liability in cases involving, for example, children's homes.

Child abuse cases have increased dramatically over the past few years following massive police investigations into children's homes in, for example, north Wales and the North West. The 10 lawyers at ACAL's inaugural meeting in London last Friday represented 2,000 clients between them.

Garsden said that because of these recent developments it was hard to determine how many lawyers the association would attract.

He, along with 100 other lawyers, is acting for 200 alleged victims in a multi-party action against five children's homes in the North West.

There are plans for ACAL to provide training for child abuse work which has inherent difficulties due to the special type of client involved. Counselling support for lawyers who deal in this area will also be set up.

For more details, ring Lee More on 01923 264988 or Malcolm Johnson on 01223 355933.