(2) whether an assessment has been made of the appropriateness of funding by legal aid the research carried out on claimants and controls in connection with concluded MMR vaccine litigation;
(3) whether an assessment has been made of purported ethical approval and clinical indication for lumbar punctures funded by legal aid performed on claimants in connection with concluded MMR vaccine litigation;
(4) whether there are plans to recover legal aid money paid to Dr. Andrew Wakefield in connection with concluded MMR vaccine litigation.
The MMR vaccine litigation involved allegations that, as a consequence of a national vaccination campaign, children were very seriously injured because the vaccine in question was defective. Legal aid funding, which covered litigation services, advocacy and disbursements for experts, was granted in the early stages of the case, and was supported by the opinions of leading counsel, which took into account the expert evidence available at the time.
The Legal Services Commission (LSC) is obliged to review continually the merits of funded litigation, and to withdraw funding where a case no longer meets the legal merits test. Funding for MMR claims was therefore discontinued when they no longer met this test. Since the MMR vaccine cases concluded, the civil legal aid Funding Code guidance has been revised, and there are now more stringent criteria for funding high-cost cases, and a presumption that legal aid will not be used to fund new scientific research.
We are not aware of any assessment of the ethical approval of procedures carried out as part of the expert evidence provided for this case. This would be a matter for the General Medical Council, not the Ministry of Justice or the LSC. The LSC has no plans to recover legal aid fees paid to Dr. Andrew Wakefield in connection with expert advice in the concluded MMR litigation.