Libel firm seeks block on aid to Birmingham Six scientist

PETER Carter-Ruck & Partners is urging the Legal Aid Board not to grant funding to the former Home Office forensic scientist who is taking legal action against the firm.

Dr Frank Skuse, whose evidence helped secure the conviction of the Birmingham Six, won legal aid for a £1 million damages claim for errors he alleges the firm made when he sued Granada Television for libel. The action related to a 1986 World in Action documentary on the Birmingham Six.

Peter Carter-Ruck & Partners partner Cameron Doley, representing his firm, wrote to the LAB, claiming Skuse had sufficient funds to pay his own legal fees.

Doley also told the LAB that following the advice of a leading silk it was unlikely that Skuse's case had an arguable cause of action in court.

Skuse's claim alleges negligence and breach of contract and is a counter claim to a court application by Peter Carter-Ruck & Partners to obtain £131,625 outstanding on his bill.

Skuse claims the firm caused a substantial delay in the case. The costs rose from an initial estimate of £50,000 to £100,000, according to Skuse, to a final bill of £338,478, which was then reduced by £100,000.

Peter Carter-Ruck & Partners claims Skuse was kept fully informed about the case's progress and denies it caused unnecessary delays.

St Helen's-based J Keith Park & Co and Anthony Scrivener QC are representing Skuse.

They are seeking a return plus interest on the £156,000 fees that Skuse paid the firm before he pulled out of the seven-year action against Granada.

He also wants a large sum to replace the damages he would have received had he won the case and damages for the anxiety and inconvenience caused.

Skuse did not bring the original action against Granada until 1989, three years after the documentary discredited his tests to detect nitro-glycerine on the hands of two of the six men who were charged with the Birmingham bombings.