Credit hire: “a forensic war of attrition over an ever broadening front”

The jailing on 16 June of former employees of Autofocus for perjury with regard to credit hire evidence has been widely reported in the media. Just a few days later, Turner J opened his judgment of 19 June in Select Car Rentals v Esure with the typically pithy summary of the history of credit hire litigation which is used as the title to this piece. He went on to caution that while the Select case – which turned on costs issues alone – may have been “the most recent skirmish. It is not likely to be the last.” Quite.

That said, it seems there is now some judicial appetite to encourage key stakeholders in credit hire litigation to get together to seek to agree standard directions for evidence in these cases. That is shown by the Rule Committee issuing, this week, Consultation on The Model Order for Directions to be used in all Credit Hire cases which are “designed to encourage the proportionate and efficient resolution of the litigation and they must not be used as tactical staging posts in the action.” The consultation paper, only nine paragraphs long, firmly encourages stakeholders to “confer constructively to try to achieve a consensus or risk a solution being imposed”.

Although the detail of the proposed directions is interesting, what may be more relevant is, for me, the distinct tone of judicial exhortation to everyone to work collectively to put in place a far more efficient approach to narrowing not only the real issues in these claims but also how they are to be proved.

It is all too clear that this limited consultation is hardly going to mark the end of contested credit hire claims. What it might do, however, is to lower the heat in Turner J’s “forensic war of attrition” and, perhaps, stop the campaign from opening on other fronts.

ak Written by Alistair Kinley, director of policy and government affairs at BLM

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