The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (“LASPO”) has now reached the “Ping Pong” stage, during which time the Bill will be batted back and forth between the two Houses, until both Houses agree on the text. From the point of view of PI practitioners, two important amendments are being sought by the Lords. The first is that people should have access to legal services that “effectively meet their needs”. The duty is subject to resource limitations; it therefore ensures that, so far as budgets allow, access to justice will be maintained. This amendment had its origins in a recommendation tabled by a number of Lords, including Lord Faulks of 1 Chancery Lane.
The second amendment exempts asbestos victims from the new “no win no fee” regime. Lord Alton, a former Lib Dem MP, is quoted in the Guardian as saying that it is wrong to use people suffering from mesothelioma to help to push down lawyers’ costs. “I suspect when you are dying, especially when you are dying from an excruciating and debilitating disease, you may have other things on your mind than watching the lawyer’s clock.” For more information on the progress of LASPO, see http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2010-11/legalaidsentencingandpunishmentofoffenders.html