UK legal aid cuts ‘may spell the end of multinational accountability overseas’December 2011
A law firm has warned that the UK government’s proposed changes to legal aid could make claims against multinationals for human rights abuses committed abroad “all but impossible”.
The human rights lawyers Leigh Day said in an interview with the Guardian newspaper that a new bill making its way through the House of Lords would effectively prohibit all but the most straightforward legal cases in an area where the issues are rarely clear-cut.
The parts of the Legal Aid, Sentencing & Punishment of Offenders Bill that refer to “litigation funding and costs” will require claimants to meet the cost of “success fees”, limiting the scope for complex cases to be pursued on a no-win no-fee basis where, currently, claimants are able to force guilty defendants to pay their legal fees.
There are also concerns that the introduction of a “proportionality” clause on litigation costs will essentially exclude human rights claims, which often cost more to pursue than the compensation sought.
Leigh Day said: “The effects would be to drastically curb the availability of access to justice by individuals whose human rights are abused by British companies in their overseas operations.”
The Ministry of Justice noted in response that “the costs involved will be more proportionate to the sums in issue”.
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