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Lawyers taking part in the pro bono effort to help the victims of the London bombings have been attacking the government-run compensation scheme. Immediately after the attacks, the Law Society set up a helpline to direct the victims and their families to free legal advice.
The Government's Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) has received 175 applications as a result of the 7 July suicide bombs, but it has increasingly come in for flak from lawyers and the media, which have said the payouts are inadequate and are taking too long.
The Solicitors Pro Bono Group (SPBG) last week joined the critics. "Lawyers are very happily doing pro bono work on behalf of people only to find that any settlement they finally receive might well be affected by their benefits," says acting chief executive Robert Gill. An SPBG member has received a copy of a letter suggesting that the Government would want to recover any such payments from the final rewards. "Lawyers would find it awkward doing a job for nothing to later discover that one of the beneficiaries was Her Majesty's Treasury," Gill says.
Several hundred firms have contacted the SPBG and around 40 firms are providing free legal services to those injured or on behalf of those killed, as well as their families.
The SPBG's concerns have struck a chord with politicians. Shadow Home Secretary David Davis told the press last week that the compensation was "for the harm suffered by victims of the bombings, not to substitute government expenditure on benefits". He added: "This seems to be a ludicrous decision and the Government should reconsider it forthwith."
Commentators have attacked a scheme the runs such a rigid tariff and which offers only £11,000 to families that lost loved ones in such a horrendous attack. The Home Office, which runs the CICA, points out that it is the most generous scheme in the world and pays out more than £200m every year.
The CICA denies press reports that there are delays of up to 15 months on payments and insists that it is only the most complex cases, involving an assessment of loss of earnings, which take more than a year.
In an article published on 12 September, it was incorrectly stated that Robert-Jan Temmink of Outer Temple Chambers had secured convictions for the Serious Fraud Office in a trial concerning the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme. In fact, Temmink was instructed as junior to leading counsel James Pavry of 15 New Bridge Street. 3 Paper Buildings' Rupert Jones was also instructed as a second junior. The Lawyer is happy to set the record straight.