Aid crack down plan could flout Euro rights, claims Law Society

ONE of the new measures to crack down on legal aid abuse by the apparently wealthy could put the UK in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Law Society has claimed.

Russell Wallman, head of the society's professional policy unit, has urged the Lord Chancellor's Department to rethink its plans to limit to £100,000 the amount of mortgage taken into account when assessing aid.

In a letter to the public accounts committee, Wallman said the measure would be “unworkable”.

But during the parliamentary committee hearing on civil aid last week, LCD permanent secretary Sir Thomas Legg rejected outright the Law Society's claims.

In his letter to the MPs on the committee, Wallman claimed an applicant whose £250,000 house was mortgaged to the hilt would be treated as though he had £150,000 of equity. That would mean either the application would be refused, or the applicant would be ordered to pay a £50,000 contribution even though he had no capital.

“The result will be that people who cannot afford to contribute will be denied legal aid,” Wallman said.

“This aspect of the regulations may be so irrational as to be outside the Lord Chancellor's powers under the Legal Aid Act.

“It is also likely to conflict with the European Convention on Human Rights, so far as criminal cases are concerned.”

A range of measures to prevent wealthy people getting aid was announced by the Lord Chancellor last month and is due to come into force in June.