Today is a sad day for access to justice.
When is election day?
A truly massive court fees hike takes effect today. Now, if an injured claimant wishes to bring a claim for a sum in excess of 200,000 pounds he or she will have to survive the mental shock of the Government selling access to the courts for a court issue fee of 10,000 pounds. Last year that fee would have been, after several significant annual fees hikes, about 1720 pounds. Can you imagine any non-monopoly service industry hiking its fees by 581% for a service a mere shadow of what it used to be in those heady days of the 1980s when there were helpful court counter staff to assist the rare litigant in person? Now there are hundreds of litigants in person ( thanks to the killing off of legal aid) and no one there to assist in spite of the large court fee pocketed by the treasury. The excuse the Ministry of Justice uses is that the courts must be self-funding. Why? Are hospitals self-funding? Are the Houses of Parliament self-funding? Shall we charge political parties for every debate they hold on new legislation in the Palace of Westminster?
When again is election day?
The second change is more whimsical. The SARAH Act comes into force today. The much heralded and completely ridiculous Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Act 2015 makes it harder to sue rescuers who botch up a rescue through negligence; and how much of a problem was that, I hear you ask, as if litigation lawyers up and down our land were chomping at the bit to sue that next incompetent have-a-go hero! I can tell you! That problem was just about as a rare as common sense in a politician. This legislation brings in a half baked solution to a problem which did not exist. We can all rest peacefully in our beds knowing this law is finally on the statute books.
Tell me, when is election day?
Thirdly, there is section 57 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 which allows a court discretion to dismiss the whole of a personal injury claim if there is any fundamental dishonesty on the part of the claimant. Now, most personal injury claims are brought by no win no fee solicitors who do not wish to act for a dishonest claimant in the first place. There are already enough adverse costs consequences in the system to deal with almost all cases of dishonesty. But the new solution may well catch out a claimant who, when applying his mind to future losses, takes an overly optimistic outlook as to what his losses are, which is unjustified on the evidence. Is that a case of fundamental dishonesty? What if a claimant thinks he is telling the truth but is just mistaken? If these are cases of fundamental dishonesty, the whole of the claim can be dismissed even if a defendant has admitted liability. Another unnecessary solution for a make-believe problem.
When is election day?
So, let us face some painful facts – if you are a person who is injured and is thinking about bringing a claim, or you are a human being and may at some future point suffer an injury and, if you do, wish to claim damages for redress where you can … here’s an unpleasant truth – the Government hates you!!
Until election day!