Ethical Performance
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Legal aid move ‘may hit corporate victims’

April 2011

NGOs have reacted angrily to the UK government’s proposed scrapping of legal aid, which they say will enable companies to avoid legal redress from victims of irresponsible behaviour.

Organizations including the Worldwide Fund for Nature, FairPensions, the Core coalition, ActionAid, Amnesty International, Traidcraft and the Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibilty, have asked the government to amend the proposals so that corporate abuse victims are not further discouraged from legal action.

The NGOs say that already ‘the extent to which victims are able to pursue avenues of redress for abuses committed by multinational corporations is low’. However, they believe the proposed changes to ‘no-win-no-fee’ arrangements will mean that lawyers ‘will find it prohibitively risky to take such cases in future, which would lead to no such cases being taken in the UK for lack of legal representation’.  

They add that any change may also cut across a proposed international framework on business and human rights being drawn up by John Ruggie, the United Nations special representative on business and human rights.

Only two law firms have undertaken cases against UK companies over human rights and environmental violations in the past 15 years.

The Justice Ministry says that the changes are needed because costs of litigation in the UK ‘are too high’, and that they are 'disproportionate to the sums at issue'.

UK & NI Ireland | Human rights

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