Legal fees are a barrier to justice for sex abuse victims, inquiry hears

The Guardian

Owen Bowcott Legal affairs correspondent

Victims of abuse are finding it increasingly difficult to bring claims for compensation to court because of cuts to legal aid and high legal fees, the inquiry into child sexual abuse has heard.

In its first public seminar, the independent inquiry chaired by Prof Alexis Jay was also told that proposals to introduce a fixed costs regime could add a further barrier to justice.

Luke Daniels, a solicitor with the firm Irwin Mitchell, said it now costs £10,000 to issue a claim. Some cases were later dropped because the costs involved were deemed by the Legal Aid Agency to be disproportionate to any likely future award.

Peter Garsden, a solicitor with Simpson Millar and president of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers, said legal aid had been cut back heavily. “People who go through abuse cases are generally unable to work,” he said, “and from the lower income thresholds.

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