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Negligence claims push up legal aid bill

11 November 2010

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Scotland’s legal aid bill for people suing the NHS for negligence has risen to a record level.

The cost soared to £1.27m halfway through 2010-11, up from £1.08m the previous year. The figure stood at just £416,000 in 2007-08, according to figures released by the Scottish government to the Conservative party.

Tory justice spokesman John Lamont said: “The legal aid budget is one of the largest components of Scotland’s justice budget and must be controlled carefully. Legitimate claims must be allowed to be pursued regardless of the financial standing of the claimant.

“However, these figures suggest that too many people are using the courts as a means of settling their complaint, regardless of the merits of their case.”

The Tories have called for the introduction of a “patients charter”, which they argue will limit the risk of rising legal aid bills.

The Scottish Legal Aid Board is responsible for administering the legal aid scheme.

In his response to the Tories, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said the board recovered 30% of the total figure in 2009-10, meaning the net cost is lower.

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