Prisons and Courts Bill overlooks injured victims

Prisons and Courts Bill overlooks injured victims

23 February 2017 

The Prisons and Courts Bill, announced today, represented an opportunity to protect access to justice for thousands of genuine claimants. CILEx, the professional association for specialist lawyers, paralegals and practitioners, is concerned that this opportunity has not been taken.
Martin Callan, president of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives said: “CILEx members are worried that the Government is ignoring expert advice to not go ahead with increasing the small claims limit; a move that will increase the numbers of injured people going it alone, without much needed legal advice. We fear that, counter to decreasing the cost of insurance premiums, the extra time insurers will spend in court as a result of not dealing with legal professionals like CILEx members will mean an increase to their bills.

CILEx is working with other organisations to do what we can to minimise or ameliorate the worst aspects of the Bill, and I hope the Government will reconsider some of the more damaging proposals, particular those that affect genuine injured persons and claimants.”

The institute fully supports the ban on pre-medical offers, however raising the small claims limit and reducing compensation for victims of injury punishes genuine claimants, and we do not believe they will result in the promised savings for motorists. We hope this Bill will be amended so that judges retain the discretion to award damages based on the matters of the case before them. 
Other proposals in the Bill, designed to bring our court system into the 21st century, are essential to ensuring our justice system remains up to date, agile, and meaningful to society as a whole. We support the development of an online court as recommended by Lord Justice Briggs, and the Government’s investment to modernise the courts and tribunals process. 
As exciting as this programme is, CILEx want to see it be done in a structured and careful manner to ensure unforeseen issues do not impact on genuine courts users, professionals, and HMCTS staff. Whilst we supports the improvement of court processes to make them more accessible and efficient, we do not want the dignity of the court to be diminished nor a distance placed between users’ experience and justice being seen to be done. 

We particularly therefore welcome the commitment to conduct pilot programmes and support initial phasing limited to relatively low level cases to ensure that systems can be tested and improved before wider roll-out. The new Case Officers outlined in the Bill will have an important role to play in the future development, and effective operation of, our courts system. We want to work with HMCTS and others to ensure these roles will explicitly be open to CILEx’s specialist lawyers.