The apparent willingness of this government to implement a fixed costs regime on cases with a value of up to £250,000 is a move that, put simply, would deprive many historic abuse victims of justice.
We have therefore made the following submission in relation to these proposed changes, from our own perspective of the work and clients that we see on a daily basis.
In the majority of Civil Claims and Personal Injury work the only desired outcome to litigation is financial – This is not the case for abuse victims. Abuse victims want recognition for what they have been through. They want “closure”. The extent of damages recovered is not always the main priority of the victim and any award is seen by them as an end to years of suffering.
We believe that any extension within the fixed costs regime that would impact on abuse claims would severely restrict access to justice for abuse victims. Lawyers simply could not afford to carry out the work to a requisite standard if fixed costs were to apply. We already have difficulties finding experts who will work at Legal Aid rates and if fixed costs were to be introduced these rates are likely to be reduced still further.
Not only will the Claimant be at a disadvantage in terms of the work that the lawyers could carry out but they will also be disadvantaged in the experts they can choose to instruct and in many cases they will be forced to proceed as litigants in person. The nature of their claims means that this is something that the majority of victims would not contemplate. It is hard enough opening up to the solicitor they instruct without having to then take on the Defendant in person who they feel was responsible for their abuse.
As a department specialising in claims on behalf of abuse victims we feel that any extension of the fixed costs regime to cover this area of work would be a disaster for victims. Many abuse claims are complex cases with heavy initial cost burdens which could not be properly investigated or litigated if severe restrictions were placed on the funding available to victims.
You can see our full review on fixed recoverable costs here.