Plans to make asbestos victims pay their own legal costs in battles for compensation have been branded offensive by a Bradford support group.

Former Bradford textiles union leader Terry Briton, of the Bradford Asbestos Victims Support Group, says the Government should be ashamed.

“Victims have already taken the risk, they’ve already paid a price with their health and they should not have to face forking out any more,” he said.

Mr Briton, of Tong Street, who was the Trade and General Workers Union textiles branch secretary in the city for more than 30 years, said he had lost many colleagues over the years to mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung caused by exposure to asbestos.

Last week the Government unveiled proposals as part of a Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill which could see personal injury claimants having to pay legal costs previously paid by the defendant when found at fault.

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke hopes the proposed changes will save £350 million from the £2 billion Legal Aid budget by trimming publicly-funded civil and family legal cases, to reduce the numbers of people using the courts.

Tomorrow is Action Mesothelioma Day and the Bradford Asbestos Victims Support Group is writing to local politicians and MPs expressing their outrage at the implications the new Bill could have.

Mr Briton said: “Mesothelioma sufferers endure pain and suffering and an untimely death because of the risks of exposure to asbestos they had to take. Now they are told that they must carry the risks of suing for compensation – isn’t the risk of losing their lives enough?

“Where is the justice in making dying asbestos victims bear the burden of legal costs on top of the pain and suffering, while rich and powerful insurance companies enjoy relief from costs which the losing party have, and should, rightly bear.”

Jane Howie, another member of the Bradford Asbestos Victims Support Group, said: “The fact is that many frail and terminally-ill sufferers will no longer sue for compensation. A victory for Government cost- cutting but a shameful attack on compensation for those who have lost their health and their lives.”

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