Legal profession unites to support bombing victims

The legal profession has launched a pro bono initiative to help the victims of the London bombings and their families. The Law Society has set up a telephone helpline to direct those affected by the bombings to free legal advice.

So far 240 firms have been contacted, with 18 signing up to provide pro bono legal services to the injured and the families of those killed or injured.

“The atrocities of 7 July have had a devastating impact on us all,” said Law Society president Kevin Martin. “The victims and their families will need legal advice on death certificates, inquests, wills, family law and compensation claims.”

Martin described the response of the legal profession as “outstanding”. Free legal advice will also be available from the pro bono website. Victims and the families of the dead seeking legal advice can also be put in touch with lawyers working under the scheme via the Red Cross Family Assistance Support Line.

The Law Society has asked the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (Apil) to recruit lawyers for the service. The kind of legal advice envisaged includes: the provision of help in completing application forms for compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme; the collation of evidence to support applications; explaining about rights and entitlements; and advice about welfare benefits and inquests.

Allan Gore QC, president of Apil, said that it was “vitally important that people who need practical help about their rights and entitlements in these very difficult circumstances should have a quick route to specialist advice, and so we are in full support of the Law Society’s initiative”.

The scheme has also been devised with the involvement of the Government. The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Tessa Jowell thanked the Law Society for setting up the helpline. “It’s vital that we all do whatever we can to make sure that those affected by the bombings have every support system and resource available to them,” she said.

The Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith also said that the legal profession, led by the Law Society, “should be commended for its commitment to establishing the legal helpline and giving free advice to victims”. He added: “This is a very distressing time for the families of those who died and those who were injured. It’s right that every support be offered to them.”

The London Bombings Legal Helpline is 0800 731 4796. It will be operative until 31 August. The pro bono website is at www.probonouk.net. The Red Cross Family Assistance Support Line is 0845 054 7444.

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