Sector could profit from successful court cases

The Law Society and the Bar Council are believed to be in the early stages of planning a scheme that could mean charities receive "hundreds of thousands of pounds of extra income" if they are victorious in cases.

At present, individuals who lose a case against a charity frequently avoid having to pay the charity's legal costs if a lawyer representing the charity is working on a pro bono basis.

According to a report in The Lawyer, the proposed scheme would see the system changed to ensure that unsuccessful parties would contribute the equivalent sum directly to the charity's funds.

Some of the money could also be used to refund the pro bono lawyer's disbursement costs - those of physically providing and producing information for the case.

The Attorney General's pro bono envoy, Michael Napier, is believed to be helping to facilitate the process through the Attorney General's pro bono co-ordinating committee. Napier is a senior partner at law firm Irwin Mitchell.

"The idea is still in the embryonic stage," Napier told the legal journal. "It's on course, but there's a lot of work still to do. We need to work on a detailed draft and resolve the question of the immediate destination of the funds."

The scheme could run into problems because HM Revenue & Customs is believed to have suggested that lawyers might be subject to taxes on the money they receive if they act as the middlemen between their charity clients and the losing parties. This may discourage lawyers.

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