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Annabel Kay  

Associate, Private Client

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Law change should prevent compensation funds being plundered, says solicitor

 

Article date:  29/11/2013

Leading solicitor, Annabel Kay, says changes to the law should help prevent a repeat of a harrowing case in which the parents of a severely disabled girl plundered £500,000 from her compensation fund.

Annabel, an associate in the private client team at Higgs & Sons, says cases such as that of Samantha Svendsen - whose mother and stepfather raided her £2.6m compensation fund over an eight-year period - should become increasingly rare thanks to tighter legislation.

But she said the case highlighted the need for families claiming compensation to seek expert advice from law firms used to operating in this highly-specialised area.

Annabel said Samantha's mother Cathy Watson and stepfather Robert Hills were awaiting sentence for the 'blatant misuse' of their 29-year-old daughter's money.

Samantha, who needs 24-hour care, had been awarded the cash for medical negligence after she suffered brain damage when she was starved of oxygen at birth. She now suffers from cerebral palsy.

Annabel said: "This is a truly awful case in which the couple used part of the compensation fund to buy holidays, cars and jewellery among other things.

"But this compensation was awarded to Samantha in 1999 before the Mental Capacity Act was introduced which enhanced the role of the Court of Protection and the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG).

"The Mental Capacity Act provides a stringent legal framework to protect people who cannot make decisions for themselves, with the Court of Protection and the OPG having increased jurisdiction to ensure money is not squandered.

"We are commonly asking the court to appoint a professional deputy to oversee any compensation award  who will approve all spending and to ensure it is used in the best interests of the individual concerned," said Annabel.

 "The court can also appoint lay deputies - such as family members - in cases where families want to be more actively involved. Where professional and lay deputies are appointed together, we can actively work together to make  the appropriate financial arrangements in favour of the compensated person.. It will all depend on what that person needs.

"It is paramount that the needs of the person  who has received compensation are represented fully at all times and to make sure family members understand  the role of the deputy and the arrangements for the administration of  any compensation.

"This type of compensation settlement is more common than many people would believe - Higgs has dealt with many high value deputy cases as a result of personal injury and clinical negligence claims. The complex nature of these settlements means that it is absolutely essential that those involved seek advice from a specialist law firm which has a good knowledge of how the Court of Protection works."

Higgs & Sons works from two offices in the Black Country - Waterfront Business Park in Brierley Hill and Kingswinford. The firm employs more than 200 people, which includes over 100 specialist lawyers.

For specialist advice on any issue relating to the Court of Protection contact Annabel on 0845 111 5050 or email Annabel.kay@higgsandsons.co.uk

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