Legal aid cutbacks to hit coalminers

A North west firm says the continual erosion of legal aid has thrown doubt over future attempts by coal miners to claim compensation for health disorders.

Liverpool-based Silverbeck Rymer's claims follow the recent £500m compensation payout to 40,000 miners suffering from vibration white finger, and to 100,000 pitmen with chest complaints (The Lawyer 25 January).

Joe Skinner, head of non-motor plaintiff litigation says: “There will be a lot of miners that will not qualify for legal aid as the financial and merits tests become tougher.”

“A lot of the miners hoping to claim will be at retirement age and may have built up a nest egg over the years, but under the tougher financial criteria they may be precluded from launching a claim.”

He said the firm was looking at other methods, such as working with a legal expense underwriter to fund cases with a good chance of success.

But a Lord Chancellor's Department spokesman says: “This criteria has been in place since legal aid's inception in 1948. Cases with a strong public interest element would be in a strong position to get available funding.”