[back] MMR legal funding
A life sentence with no appeal; It's the final insult. While asylum
seekers and prisoners denied second helpings of pudding are given legal
aid, these agonised parents who believe MMR caused theirchildren's
autism are refused it.
The Daily Mail (London, England); 2/24/2004
Byline: MICHAEL SEAMARK
THE battle by 1,000 families to prove the MMR jab ruined their
children's lives was in severe jeopardy last night following a decision
to cut off their legal aid.
Their multimillion-pound claim against the makers of the vaccine faces
collapse after the Legal Services Commission - which had spent [pounds
sterling]15million on the action - refused to approve a further [pounds
An appeal for a judicial review into that decision has been heard and
the result is expected in the next two weeks. But without further public
funding these cases are unlikely to go forward, devastating the families
fighting to win justice for their sons and daughters.
They are bitter that, despite legal aid being handed out to a host of
dubious causes, their fight is being dismissed.
Campaigner Jackie Fletcher is the national co-ordinator of the Jabs
parent support organisation and her 12-year-old son Robert is one of
those children involved. She said yesterday: 'Without legal aid the
families of the damaged children face losing their day in court - which
we hoped would give answers to all worried parents.' The decision last
October to stop any further legal aid was condemned as 'illogical and
perverse' by parents. It came only six months before the cases were due
to be heard of the children, who suffer from a range of disabilities
including autism, bowel problems, epilepsy and other learning
The LSC said it recognised that the children suffered from a series of
serious medical conditions, and that the matter was of sufficient public
interest to justify the money so far invested in the case.
But the failure of any medical body to prove a concrete link between the
triple jab and these health problems meant the case had little chance of
success, it said.
AMONG the families who spend their life constantly caring for their
damaged children, there is little doubt of the link between the MMR jab
and their suffering.
The Government, led by Tony Blair and chief medical officer Liam
Donaldson, continues to insist that the measles, mumps and rubella
vaccine is perfectly safe.
Below are some of the tragic stories that the courts are yet to hear -
Robert Fletcher, now 12
HE appeared to be a perfectly healthy baby until he had his MMR jab at
Ten days later, his parents say, he became drowsy and listless, then
suffered a febrile convulsion.
When his mother Jackie, 47, from Wigan, told the hospital duty
paediatrician that Robert had just had the injection, she says the
doctor rejected any connection and said it was 'probably an ear
Over the next few weeks, Robert started having fits and suffered a
string of infections.
Eventually, he was diagnosed with severe epilepsy and a problem with his
Robert has the development of a 14-month-old child. He is
wheelchair-bound, cannot talk, wears nappies and needs 24-hour care.
Mrs Fletcher founded Jabs, a support group for parents who believe their
children were damaged by vaccines.
She has two other sons, aged 21 and 17. Her husband John, 51, retired
from his job as a transport engineer to help care for Robert.
'We have to anticipate his every need,' she says. 'Like a lot of the MMR
children, his condition is deteriorating.'
William Kessick, now 15
HIS mother Rosemary, a 49-year- old former lecturer and business
analyst, says William was a bubbly, jolly baby, 'perfect and bright as a
But within a couple of weeks of his vaccination, at 15 months, she
Matthew Poulter, now 13
FAMILY videos show Matthew as a baby smiling for the camera.
His parents say the injection at 15 months heralded the start of his
problems. He began screaming and whining and eventually turning into a
His mother Rochelle, of Burgess Hill, West Sussex, told the health
visitor at his 18-month check that she felt something was wrong.
'He'd stopped developing,' she says. He was not talking or doing the
things he had done before.
Matthew was diagnosed autistic and became socially withdrawn,
uncoordinated and aggressive.
Today, he is a day pupil at a special school in Lewes and has learned to
deal with his aggression but remains socially inadequate.
'He still gets things extremely wrong,' says Mrs Poulter, 44, whose
husband Graham, 48, is a gas engineer-He's an adolescent and there are
different problems now.'
Oliver Loch, now seven
HIS older siblings, Matthew and Jessica, had both received the triple
jab and were fit and well.
But their mother Julie says that within weeks of Oliver being immunised
at 14 months, he developed bowel problems and his behaviour changed
'Before the vaccine, he was a happy, cheerful, sociable little boy,'
said the part-time pharmacist, who lives near Cardiff.
'People would comment on his big smile.' She says the little boy started
to have tantrums over the next few weeks. He would also scream and did
not want to be held.
He was diagnosed as autistic shortly before his third birthday.
He also suffers from epilepsy.
There is no doubt in Mrs Loch's mind that her son's problems are linked
'He's regressed,' she says. 'You are on a knife edge all the time.'
Terry and Michael Thomas, now nine and 11
' THERE are times I wish my boys had never survived because they are in
so much pain,' says their mother Isabella, 45, from Brighton.
Michael had his MMR jab when he was 14 months old and his mother says
that within hours the normally happy, calm and smiling baby started to
'His eyes were wide open, as if he had seen a monster. There was a high
pitched screaming.' Terry, pictured above, was a bright, very
intelligent child until, aged 21 months, he had the jab.
Mrs Thomas says the following day he suffered a huge fit.
The two boys have different forms of autism. Michael is very aggressive
and his condition is deteriorating. Terry is very quiet.
Their brothers Ian, 25, and Nigel, 23, were not immunised and are
unaffected. Their mother says this rules out a genetic cause.
She helps to run the campaign group Jabs and her husband, Ian, runs a
Oliver Thrower, now 16
AS a toddler, Oliver was talking and had reached all his developmental
'The health visitor was delighted with him,' says his 53-year- old
father David, a former public transport planner and now Oliver's
'Ask him to point out a car or a tree on the frieze in his bedroom and
he would get them all right.' But after he had a single measles
vaccination at 15 months, his parents, from Warrington, Cheshire, say
they noticed a decline.
Then, at four, Oliver had the MMR jab and all his skills 'dissolved'.
He screamed, became destructive and attacked his parents and other
The autistic teenager has no speech and cannot dress himself.
Mr Thrower says: 'He is severely
brain-damaged. Relatives ask how Oliver is, and I say he's the same.
'He was brain- damaged for life.
Oliver is as he was when he was four years old. We don't expect him to
get any better.'
Rachael Coote, now 16
A LIVELY, happy child with a good vocabulary, Rachael, from Bolton,
received the MMR vaccine at 19 months.
Two days after the jab, her parents say, she had a raging temperature,
refused to eat or drink and let out distressing high-pitch screams.
When her mother Ann, 46, called a doctor, she says he told her many
children suffered these reactions.
Nine days after the injection, Rachael fell asleep and stopped
She was revived, but it was a year and many hospital visits later that
doctors finally discovered she had a form of epilepsy. At its worst, she
endured 40 fits a day.
The little girl's development went backwards, she stopped speaking, went
back to nappies and would wake in the night screaming.
Her father Michael, a self-employed countryside warden, says she has a
mental age of six. Rachael's condition has improved and the worst fits
are now under control.
Thomas Hewitt, now ten
BRIGHT, intelligent and sociable as a baby, Thomas had the MMR jab at 13
Three weeks later his mother Ann, from Wood Green, North London, took
him to a children's bonfire party, where he spent the whole night
She says after that he started banging his head, and when they went to
the mother and toddler group instead of playing with the other children
all he wanted to do was play with the door.
Today, the youngster is unable to take part in any social occasion.
'He never gets any invitations,' says Mrs Hewitt, 55, a placement
officer in a London social services department. Her husband Martin is a
social policy manager.
Thomas is autistic. He is unable to eat most foods and has a constant
bowel disorder. He also suffers from one of the worst forms of epilepsy.
'We look into his eyes and know there is something more in there,' says
Eighteen months ago, Thomas was one of two autistic children who handed
a petition in to 10 Downing Street calling for urgent research into
possible links between autism and MMR.
BUT THESE ALL GOT LEGAL AID... ...........
HERE is a selection of cases which have been deemed worthy of
substantial legal aid.
A LITHUANIAN family of asylum seekers are awarded [pounds
sterling]100,000 in legal aid after claiming a three-bedroom maisonette
they have been given is too small.
The claim for damages is thrown out in 2002 after the court hears the
family were offered an alternative home which they rejected because the
bathroom wasn't big enough.
BRENDAN Fearon, 33, wins [pounds sterling]5,000 legal aid to claim
compensation from Tony Martin for injuries sustained while burgling the
farmer's Norfolk home.
Fearon, who says he was hurt in the burglary during which 16-yearold
accomplice Fred Barras was shot by Martin, drops his case in 2003 after
he is seen walking and cycling.
FORMER Guinness chairman Ernest Saunders, 55, claims to be penniless and
gets legal aid in 1990 to fight charges of conspiracy, false accounting
Saunders is given a five-year jail term after the 113-day trial which
cost [pounds sterling]25million. He escapes paying any costs.
A JAMAICAN illegal immigrant convicted of dealing crack cocaine is
granted legal aid in 2002 to fight deportation because she has Aids.
Althea Matthan, 27, says treatment in Jamaica is ineffective.
A PRISONER is granted legal aid to sue the Home Secretary in 1999
because he couldn't get a second helping of rhubarb crumble in a jail
canteen. Danny Gayle, 42, was punished for hurling his dessert on to the
TWO Kosovans shot and wounded by British peacekeeping troops claim legal
aid this year to sue the Ministry of Defence for [pounds
sterling]100,000. After the incident Mohamet Bici was flown to Britain
for surgery to reconstruct his jaw and both he and his cousin Skender
were given council homes in Leeds.
A GIRL of 16 from Cleveland is granted [pounds sterling]1,000 legal aid
in 1996 to take her parents to court. They banned her from seeing her
younger brother, sister and dog after she went to live with her
THIS month Chitralekha Mehta, daughter of the founder of the Patak's
spice business empire, is revealed to be receiving legal aid to bring a
High Court case claiming she and her sister were cheated out of shares.
She is, the court is told, 'a woman of considerable wealth in India'.
MURDERER John Duggan gets legal aid in 2002 to sue the prison service
because his savings bring no interest.
Duggan, jailed in 1984 for battering his girlfriend to death with a
scaffolding pole, complained against the zero-interest prison account
meant to pay for phonecards, toiletries and cigarettes.
ELIZABETH Fagan, 39, is awarded [pounds sterling]250,000 of taxpayers'
money in 2001 to sue over the 'trauma' of witnessing a fatal road
accident. Mrs Fagan from Tooting, South London, takes action against the
driver of a vehicle who crashed into a police motorcyclist, killing him
- and leaving her 'mentally scarred and unable to work'.
IN 2000, nine armed Afghan hijackers run up legal bills of [pounds
sterling]4.3million claiming asylum in Britain after threatening to blow
up a passenger jet.
The gang forced the aircraft to fly from Afghanistan at gunpoint and
demanded asylum at Stansted airport.
M25 killer Kenneth Noye, jailed for life at the Old Bailey for the
murder of Stephen Cameron, was backed by [pounds sterling]250,000 in
legal aid, it is revealed in 2000.
Noye has a property empire in Cyprus and Tenerife, and had access to
hundreds of thousands of pounds in cash while hiding from British police
A WOMAN who left her wealthy banker husband to marry Princess Diana' s
lawyer is given legal aid for her divorce case in 1998. Dina Rabinovitch
left her husband for Anthony Julius, then estimated to be earning
[pounds sterling]300,000 a year from his legal career.
TWO unemployed men are awarded [pounds sterling]10,000 in 1996 to fight
a bypass in Bristol.
Andrew Nicholson, 43, and Barry McNeeney, 50, who live eight miles away,
complain that the road would divert a cycle route.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Solo SyndicationLimited