We write regarding ‘The rise of the specialist: part two’, by Sophie Khan. We are a firm of solicitors specialising in civil actions against public authorities. It is important to be clear that public funding remains available for most civil actions against the police and other detaining authorities for clients who are eligible on their means. It is vital that remains the case and is improved in terms of state accountability. Solicitors have a duty to advise those clients of the availability of public funding, including where their firm does not offer legal aid for that area of work. For those clients who have become ineligible for public funding due to ever-increasing means thresholds, damages-based agreements are rarely, if ever, the answer (even for those who find them conscionable, unlike our firm), due to the modest levels of quantum awarded by the courts even for serious abuses. The courts have also recognised that fixed fees are not appropriate for this category of work due to their complex nature. The extension of qualified one-way costs shifting (QOCS) to this area of work is essential. It is this extension (rather than taking clients’ damages) that will allow greater access to justice for those who are ineligible on their means for legal aid.
Bhatt Murphy, London N1