Proposed NI discount rate legislation set to meet resistance in Assembly?

Last week, the Justice Committee of the Assembly held a further hearing with officials from the NI Department of Justice (DoJ). The debates and questioning moved forward from the indications given at the previous hearing on 22 October (i) that the Department proposed to accelerate the passage of legislation to set a new legal framework for the discount rate and consequently did not intend to set an ‘interim’ rate using the 1996 Act and (ii) that Members’ (MLAs) initial view was to resist accelerated passage. The view among MLAs looks now to have hardened against accelerated passage for the new Bill, which could be a real problem for the DoJ in delivering a rate based on a new framework in the second half of next year.

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Significant news on the discount rate in Northern Ireland

Officials from the NI Department of Justice gave evidence this afternoon on the way forward following consultation over the summer on the mechanism for setting the personal injury discount rate. There are two significant developments:

  • First that the officials indicated that on balance the Department had concluded it would not proceed to reset the existing rate based on the 1996 Act, ILGS yields and Wells v Wells.
  • Second is that the Department will seek to introduce legislation quickly to deliver a new legal framework for setting the discount rate.
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Accommodating the future following injury

Over three days this week the Court of Appeal heard – remotely – the test case challenge to the current basis of valuing awards for the additional costs of suitable or adapted accommodation in claims arising from serious injuries. The calculation features use of the personal injury discount rate and, since that is negative at present, it produces (mathematically at least) ‘no loss’ for the claimant. The claimant in Swift v Carpenter argues this is unsatisfactory and therefore seeks a new approach.

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