On 28 March the Public Bills Committee heard evidence from Brett Dixon, of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, Rob Townend of Aviva and James Dalton of the Association of British Insurers. The context was legislative scrutiny of the whiplash measures to be found at part 5 of the Prison and Courts Bill currently proceeding in the Commons. Opening the evidence session, Sir Oliver Heald MP, Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice, asked this question: “In recent years, since 2005, we have seen a fall in the number of road accidents, we have seen safer vehicles and we have seen a more than 50% increase in whiplash-related claims. Can you put this in perspective and tell us what you think the problem is and whether you think our tariff system is going any way to solving it?”
In a blog earlier today we noted that measures to address “whiplash” are to be included in the Prison and Courts Bill published today.
Indeed Part 5 of the Bill, which has just been published, is simply headed “WHIPLASH” (the capitals are from the Bill itself). The content of part 5 stretches across pages 59 -65 of the Bill but despite the length of the clauses included there, it should be noted that a great deal of the detail will be left to regulation.
We see but a part of the UK’s Justice system and are quick to complain about its shortcomings but the challenges are not always obvious nor the competing demands of other areas of the law.
A quick skim of this year’s report from our most senior judge, which can be accessed here, is informative. UK Justice is a great export with this country often being the jurisdiction of choice. Many other jurisdictions would welcome the accountability and independence of the UK judicial process and as we reflect on further reforms and change (Briggs – online Courts; Jackson – extending fixed costs and of course MoJ on whiplash and small claims) we should step back and remember that they cannot be viewed in isolation.
The rule of law is one of the great pillars of our system (and it does involve reminding / telling Government that it has got things wrong – from time to time) and as we respond to these consultations we should do so constructively: it may not be perfect but it’s not bad and we have a responsibility to make it better – all of it.
Written by Terry Renouf, consultant, BLM