Without Legal Aid how do victims’ families take on the News of the World?

Following David Cameron's savage Legal Aid cuts, how will the ordinary victims of the News of the World phone hacking scandal afford to take Rupert Murdoch to court?

By Jonny Mulligan of the Sound Off For Justice campaign

Today Scotland Yard is investigating claims that families of members of the armed forces killed in Afghanistan and Iraq have been targeted by Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator who worked for the News of the World (NotW).

The revelation is likely to further shock the public, who have already reacted with horror to news that the paper intercepted voicemails left on a phone belonging to murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler and targeted the phones of families of victims of the 7/7 bombings – six years ago today.

The emergency debate in parliament was marked with MPs from all sides calling for a full inquiry now into every aspect of the NotW phone hacking scandal, including asking why the police did nothing.

Is there any point in this inquiry if the families and the victims cannot get access to justice? How will they afford the cost of taking NotW to a civil court? The prime minster and MPs from all sides must now ensure these victims have the means to fight any cases they might want to take as a result of theses inquiries.

To do this the prime minister and his ministers must stop and listen to Sound off for Justice and our partners. The alternative package which the government is ignoring will ensure the victims of these cases can still fund any claims they might take.

The question justice minister Jonathan Djanogly and David Cameron must answer is how these families will fund their cases? Do they really believe they can represent themselves against News International? Will they need to re-mortage their houses to fund their cases? This is the company that has effectively led parliament and law enforcement on a merry dance since 2003.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper was the only MP to raise this issue yesterday in the debate in Parliament and it is an important point. David Cameron must consider what is the point in running a government inquiry if the victims cannot get access to justice. Under the government’s cuts to legal aid and the Jackson reforms the average citizen and the victims do not know how they will afford to fight their cases.

Under the Jackson reforms to ‘no win no fee’ in the justice bill, even if the victim’s families are successful they will lose up to 25 per cent of the compensation they could receive from NotW. By this we mean the government will take a 25% fee out of any compensation the families might win.

Next week the Parliamentary Bill Committee will sit down to debate the impact the cuts in legal aid will have to more than 725,000 people in the UK. These cuts will leave thousands of victims with no way of getting access to justice. The debate in parliament on the NotW creates a very live case study for the committee to consider.

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