LAB ignores 'pressure' of power giant to reinstate funds for leukaemia fight

THE LEGAL Aid Board (LAB) has reinstated funds to lawyers acting for the family of a childhood leukaemia victim months after backing was withdrawn under alleged pressure from power suppliers.

Leigh Day & Co is taking a case against Norweb claiming electromagnetic fields in Little Lever, Bolton, were associated with the 1992 death of 13-year-old Simon Studholme.

The Studholme family moved to the area in 1989 and was living next door to an electricity sub-station. Eighteen months after the move Simon was found to have leukaemia and he died in September 1992.

The family instructed Leigh Day & Co in 1993 following the firm's work on similar cases in Sellafield and secured legal aid to review the strength of the evidence. The review was conducted in late 1993 and 1994.

But joint senior partner Martyn Day claims LAB funds were withdrawn after Norweb wrote to the board saying the family had no case and they were prepared to spend “millions of pounds” opposing the action.

Last week an LAB area committee reinstated funding and Day predicts the case will come to court within two years.

“I'm very pleased the Legal Aid Board was not cowed into submission by the electricity industry,” said Day.

“They were clearly persuaded by the strength of the arguments and it shows that the board is still prepared to support the Davids in their fights against the Goliaths.”

A spokeswoman for the LAB said while the board did not publish the reasons behind the refusal and granting of individual legal aid certificates, people were entitled to make representations against grants.

“However, although the board will examine the content of such representations, it is concerned at establishing the merits of a particular case and will consider all the information it receives,” said the spokeswoman.

A Norweb spokesman said: “The company wrote to the legal aid authorities, drawing their attention to some of the relevant scientific points and the views of reputable authorities around the world. The company does not know what influenced the legal aid authorities.

Leigh Days' case against Bromley Council was dismissed on 6 December after it claimed the health of four-year-old asthmatic Amelia Sassoon would be hindered if her school allocation was not reconsidered.