The new President of APIL, Jonathan Wheeler, delivered his first speech today at the APIL Conference and he did not hold back.
“One Sided”, “Draconian” and “Orwellian” are just some of the terms he used to describe the Government’s recently passed legislations, as he took a stand against the controversially confusing Fundamental Dishonesty clause in The Criminal Justice and Courts Act and the recent hike on Court Fees.
For Mr Wheeler, The Criminal Justice Act was “one sided” and “a draconian way to treat victims of injury” who are considered to be “fundamentally dishonest”. He asked questions over the fairness of the clause when you consider the nature of the defendants committing the same offence.
“What about defendants who pursue ‘fundamentally dishonest’ defences? Who say they haven’t got crucial documents to disclose when they have? Who defend a claim for child abuse against a priest by claiming that, at the age of 15, my client consented to being raped by a 61 year old man of the cloth? Is this an honest defence?”
“How about the defendant who purposefully sets out to delay a settlement brought on behalf of a terminally ill claimant, because it would be cheaper to pay out on the claim when they are dead… Why aren’t such defendant practices also caught by legislation?”
Hard hitting stuff but all valid points that need to be made as the personal injury industry looks to fight back against a Government who seem hell bent on doing away with access to justice altogether.
Mr Wheeler took an equally harsh tone towards the recent hike on court fees, criticising the Government’s use of terminology when introducing the fee hike, which in some circumstances scaled a 600% increase.
He labelled the hikes “a tax on clients’ misery” saying: “Where’s the principle in that? That is increasing the cost of litigation. The Government call these ‘enhanced court fees’. Enhanced means ‘improved’! What kind of Orwellian double-speak is being used here?”
The court fee hikes have been introduced on unreasonable ideologies, based on the Government’s belief that claims should be categorised by severity and that if you are making a serious injury claim, then that means that you can afford to pay higher rates to do so, a point that is as ridiculous as it sounds.
With the elections fast approaching, the entire industry are hoping for a period of change for the better to follow the result. If this does not happen, Jonathan Wheeler can expect a tough first year at the helm of APIL when it comes to the fight to preserve access to justice.
He would have a glimpse of this at the conference in the guise of the ABI and their Director of General Insurance Policy, Jack Dalton. He asked whether or not personal injury lawyers had a role in low value cases and reminded the attendees that fraud was rampant within the industry.