Can We Afford To Protect The Weak? Do We Want To?

The “Official Solicitor”. Not Always Right. But, maybe The Best We Have Got.

The cry from the “Left” is that whenever there are cuts in public spending the impact is felt most by the weakest in society.

This Blog is not political and most of my readers will agree that no-one, whether individual person or government, should spend money it hasn’t got.

So make up your own mind, about legal aid cuts.

I mention here two separate recent cases, both referring to the Official Solicitor.

The Official Solicitor is a Public Official. He is a real person, his name is Alastair Pitblado. The phrase “Official Solicitor” is usually used in respect of his office, The Official Solicitor to the Senior Courts and the Public Trustee. According to the Government website this is a total of 135 people. According to its most recent reports, it costs us all about £8 million per year.

Its function, put simply, is to represent the weak and vulnerable in society. Those who are vulnerable, usually mentally or psychologically disabled and unable to represent themselves in legal deliberations which affect them and impinge upon their welfare or freedom

IN the case of David Ross v A , link here the Official Solicitor was pretty much smacked round the head by the Judge. This was a case where a girl P had received a large sum of compensation in respect of birth injuries, which was meant to provide for her life-long welfare. She may live into her fifties, possibly longer.

Mr Ross is a lawyer who has been appointed by the Courts to act as P’s lawyer/representative. He has decided that P should pay her brother’s school fees. This would enable P’s family to stay together as a family unit.

You may think, why should a disabled girl pay private school fees for her brother? Well, if you don’t have a clue about the personal circumstances of the family that would seem natural. The Official Solicitor has taken the stance that this is something that should not be allowed. Seems to me like a kneejerk reaction. Perhaps because the Official Solicitor’s office has a squeeze on its funding it now appears that the application it had made to disallow the payment of these school fees is “unnecessarily hostile and intrusive”

In particular the Judge said “I found the Official Solicitor’s approach to this application unnecessarily intrusive and hostile. It involved a microscopic scrutiny of the professional deputy’s expenditure since the inception of the deputyship and condemnation of the extent to which A’s entire family is dependent on her award. His proposed solution to this problem was crudely opportunistic. He contended that the deputy had behaved in a way that had contravened the authority conferred on him by the court and was not in A’s best interests and that, accordingly, the deputy was personally liable to reimburse A’s funds with the amount he had spent on B’s school fees so far.
“Many, indeed most, families are as dependent upon a damages award for personal injury or clinical negligence as the recipient of the award is dependent upon their family. Parents in this situation are all too aware of their reliance on their child’s award, and it is both insensitive and demeaning to stigmatise them for deciding to sacrifice their own careers and earning potential by staying at home and caring for their profoundly disabled child on a full-time basis.”

Strong words, portraying the Official  Solicitor as an unthinking reactionary, blind to nuance or individual circumstance.

But then again, have a thought for the reality in which the Official Solicitor’s office finds itself.

In a case this month, Mod & Others, link here ,The courts have said that in any case in which a vulnerable party who cannot represent themselves is faced with proceedings which could result in their being deprived of their liberty, representation of their interests is required before a decision can be made. Such representation must be provided by the Official Solicitor.

In a Country where the elderly population are living longer than ever, but diseases of the brain are striking earlier and earlier, the consequences of this decision are that thousands of cases,  tens of thousands will require representation at any given time..

This ruling appears to have the result that the Official Solicitor [remember, a staff of 135 people] may be asked to represent an additional what, five, maybe eight THOUSAND additional cases a month.

At a time when public funding is being reduced.

The response from the Official Solicitor not surprisingly, is, “I do not have the staff resources to manage the expected increases in caseload.”

So where does that leave the most vulnerable member in our society. [Society? Is there such a thing?]

I suppose, it is all a matter of what the taxpayer actually wants to fund. The elderly, the mentally inadequate, the mentally ill. Not very sexy are they, not very able to argue their corner.

I regret, I have no solutions at all. Still, food for thought, eh?

However, what I can supply is Notarial Assistance whenever you need it, – Please do contact me whenever you need Notarial certification or Legalisation – at http://www.atkinsonnotary.com or phone me on 0113 816 0116 (internationally 0044 113 8160116)

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