LAB squares up to fury of jilted parents

Legal aid provisions are scheduled to come back before the High Court in the near future. The court will be asked to overturn a decision which refused legal aid for a civil action against an alleged paedophile ring accused of sexually abusing six children.

The parents of the four girls and two boys, all from Durham, decided to take civil action in a bid to properly air the matter in court after the Crown Prosecution Service decided there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.

The CPS decision followed extensive police investigations between August 1993 and March 1994.

But when the parents, in August last year, sought legal aid to back their action, it was refused by the Legal Aid Board's north western area office, a decision backed by the area committee two months later.

Now the parents have gone to the High Court to seek judicial review of the refusal. And they have been given leave to go ahead with their challenge to the legal aid authorities.

Giving leave for the challenge, Mr Justice Brooke said the parents at the least had an "arguable case" against the aid authorities' refusal on the basis that no adequate reasons had been given for the refusal.

It was a case, he said, which should go to a full hearing as a matter of urgency.

David Harris, of Sale, Cheshire, firm Alexander Harris, said the parents, who he is acting for, had felt "bitter, disillusioned and dispirited" by the board's attitude. He said: "The board will have to look very carefully at the criteria for granting and refusing funding in similar circumstances."