Irwin Mitchell slams Govt over vCJD compensation scheme

The Irwin Mitchell partner advising 150 families affected by the human form of mad cow disease has hit out at the Department of Health’s (DoH) handling of the compensation scheme set up to support his clients.

David Body told The Lawyer: “The trust deed has been drafted in a particularly elliptical and unhelpful way. I seriously believe the DoH is at fault for failing to remedy these problems.”

Body’s comments follow a week of intense criticism of the vCJD (variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease) Trust’s adviser Charles Russell, which has been paid £3.2m for advice given to the trust since its establishment in 2001. Irwin Mitchell has earned in excess of £1.4m since the trust’s foundation.

Body went on to condemn Charles Russell’s involvement in the saga. He claimed the trust deed is unnecessarily complicated. “Those that have advised the trustees have been overinterpreting the trust,” he said. “Had it been done more quickly, I assume it could have been done more cheaply.”

A Charles Russell spokesman responded: “In September 2004 there was a meeting between the lawyers for all parties at which we, on behalf of the trustees, proposed a simplification of the scheme. However, the proposal was rejected for legitimate reasons, the main one being that by that stage it would be too difficult to obtain consensus among families which would allow the trust deed to be amended.”

A DoH spokesperson said: “The vCJD compensation scheme is necessarily complex in order to meet the needs of victims of this dreadful disease and their families.

“The DoH is committed to keeping the costs of administering the scheme as low as possible and works with the trust and its solicitors to ensure that this is the case.”