On Tuesday 29 November, I travelled to London at the invitation of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA) to take part in the first day of seminars, which had been organised as part of the Accountability and Reparation limb of the Inquiry’s work.
During the morning Claimant and Defendant representatives appeared separately. I was joined by representatives from four other leading abuse firms as the Inquiry explored issues such as the availability of different forms of funding and the challenges facing victims of historic abuse in making the initial step of approaching a solicitor to bring a claim.
I hope that the Inquiry took on board the concern expressed by myself and my colleagues in relation to the apparent willingness of this government to implement a fixed costs regime on cases with a value of up to £250,000. This is a move that would deprive many historic abuse victims of justice. It was interesting to hear from our counterparts in the insurance industry that this is not something that they are actively petitioning for.
The afternoon sessions combined representatives from the Association of British Insurers, various Insurance Companies, Defendant Solicitors and Claimant specialists including myself.
We talked at length about the possibility of removing limitation in abuse cases – this has been debated and adopted in other jurisdictions and seems to be something the Inquiry are interested in albeit that the Insurers were predictably unsupportive.
The afternoon concluded with a more general discussion about the litigation process including the difficulties in instructing Single Joint Experts, conduct of trials, disclosure issues and the difficulties posed by pre medical offers from Defendants. There seemed to be general agreement that disclosure was still a major problem with some London Boroughs taking years to provide essential documents.
The panel, including the new Chair, seemed knowledgeable and genuinely interested in the topics being debated. Matters were expertly directed by Peter Skelton QC, Counsel to the Inquiry and it must be hoped that the problems that have beset the Inquiry to date can now be put behind it.
There are many important issues which need to be addressed in this most difficult area of law and it was a privilege to be involved from the outset in the legal aspects of the Inquiry.
More information on the seminars can be found via the Guardian website.