The Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling, has defended his status as a non-lawyer in the role, telling peers that it has a ‘positive benefit’.
Well, technically he is not lying; unfortunately the ‘positive benefit’ it has carried has been 100% in the favour of the insurance industry, as he continuously finds favour in their industry crippling ideas for reform.
As the first non-lawyer to hold the post for 440 years he has overseen a landslide of debilitating reforms to the way small claims are handled, which has forced many legal firms to shut up shop or change specialties and severely hampered the genuine accident victim’s ability to get access to justice.
This week he was forced to justify his suitability for the role moving forward as it came under inquiry in front of the House of Lords constitution committee and he staunchly defended his credentials.
He told the inquiry: “I don’t think that the person holding my job suffers from not being a lawyer. We don’t need a health secretary who is a doctor. I don’t believe you need to be a practicing lawyer and understand the minutiae of the court to protect the values of the justice system.”
That claim is almost laughable, as the values of the justice system would surely to be to protect the right for a genuine accident victim to be able to access to justice. Not to agree to reforms that serve no purpose but to protect the profits of the industry that is backing your party.
Grayling went on, saying it would be a big mistake to separate the two roles he currently undertakes and said that a non-lawyer had the ability to take a dispassionate approach to reform.
Scott Rees and Co Marketing Partner, David Byrne (pictured right), disputes the Lord Chancellors defence and claims that the time had come for the roles to be divided and for the Lord Chancellor role to be filled by someone who understands the importance of legal aid and the values of the justice system.
“Chris Grayling’s tenure as Lord Chancellor has been a nightmare for everyone within the profession apart from the insurance industry. He has happily wielded the axe on the livelihood of many solicitors within the profession by introducing reforms that serve no benefit other than improved profits for the insurers and in doing so he has destroyed one of the key values of the justice system and that is the right for a genuine accident victim to have access to justice.”
“We now live in an era where victims are facing up to the likelihood that they are going to have to represent themselves when claiming compensation for an injury that they did not ask for and would much rather do without.”
“Recently the Lord Chancellor has suffered humiliating defeats both in the High Court, over his attempts to remove the recoverability exemption on Mesothelioma victims and in many senses he was defeated by the Transport Select Committee’s findings over the rising costs of premiums in relation to whiplash reform.”
“Defeats like these have to raise questions over his suitability for either role, never mind dividing the two down.”
“All in all the role of Lord Chancellor has to be filled by someone who understands what is right for the justice system and it really should be someone who is a qualified lawyer or solicitor.”
“It needs someone who has worked within the industry. Someone who knows what it is like to work at every level and understands where there are faults and what is needed to be done to improve things.”
“It certainly doesn’t need someone who is prepared to leave people without adequate support to recover from an accident caused by the negligence of another. Nor does it need someone who is keen to take money from the terminally ill to cover costs elsewhere, or to appease the people who back his party.”
His thoughts on the suitability for the role of Lord Chancellor echoed those of Bar Council Chair, Nicolas Lavender, who claimed that the Lord Chancellor should be a champion of the justice system.
Mr Lavender said: “He is entrusted with lead responsibility in government to maintain the delicate balance between, on one hand, upholding the rule of law and protecting the independence of the judiciary and, on the other hand, respecting the interests of the executive.”
“Legal expertise is essential to fulfil such a unique role. The Lord Chancellor should be a very senior lawyer.”
It is no coincidence that many within the legal industry hold the same viewpoint over the future of the Lord Chancellor role and it is hoped that the conclusion of this inquiry will see a changing of the guard.
Is ‘failing Grayling’s’ time running out? Only time will tell.