Wife in life support case hits out at legal aid ruling

Lindsey, 40, launched legal action so her husband could "die with dignity". Credit:

A woman who waged a legal battle to end her injured husband's life has spoken of her disappointment at a ruling which lawyers say could limit access to legal aid.

Gulf War veteran Paul Briggs, 43, was left in a minimally conscious state for nearly 18 months after he was in a motorcycle crash while serving with Merseyside Police in July 2015.

Last year, the Court of Protection agreed with his wife Lindsey that life-sustaining treatment could be withdrawn.

Mrs Briggs did not qualify for means-tested legal aid and could not afford representation, but she was able to bring the case after the court treated it as one involving deprivation of liberty safeguards.

Such cases often relate to restrictive care arrangements and legal aid is available regardless of a person's means.

After Mr Briggs's death in January, the decision that the case was properly brought under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 was challenged by the Legal Aid Agency and the appeal was upheld on Monday.

Funding will be honoured in Mrs Briggs's case but law firm Irwin Mitchell says the decision could mean that others in a similar situation will not be able to access legal aid unless they pass the existing means test.

"I am hugely disappointed about this decision and how it will impact other people and their families.

"I was grateful that legal aid was granted to hear Paul's case fairly and transparently in court. Otherwise, I would not have been able to afford the tens of thousands of pounds needed to fund legal representation.

"Hard-working families should not have to face financial hardship to have their relatives' views fairly considered, and nor should legal professionals be expected to work for free."

– Mrs Briggs