An Update to Legal Aid Reforms

A written ministerial statement announced yesterday that plans to slash the number of law firms allowed to do criminal legal aid work have been dropped.

The proposed cuts would have meant a major reduction in the number of solicitors' firms awarded ‘duty contracts.’ Firms that hold these contracts are called on to represent people who qualify for legal aid. This includes people under the age of 18, on income support, or with a gross annual income of under £22,325 a year. Firms are placed on a rota to provide that representation and are paid legal aid fees for their time.

As of June 2015, there were over 1,600 such firms around the country; government plans were to reduce this number to 527.

These received widespread opposition from both solicitors and barristers. The Ministry of Justice faced 99 separate legal challenges over the proposals. In a written statement, Michael Gove said that there were “real problems” in pressing ahead with the proposals, and the policy has now been ditched.

He added:

“My decision is driven in part by the recognition that the litigation will be time-consuming and costly for all parties, whatever the outcome.

“I do not want my department and the legal aid market to face months if not years of continuing uncertainty, and expensive litigation, while it is heard.”

He also said:

“By not pressing ahead with dual contracting, and suspending the fee cut, at this stage we will, I hope, make it easier in all circumstances for litigators to instruct the best advocates, enhancing the quality of representation in our courts.”

To find out more about legal aid entitlements, read our previous blog post here.


Article Disclaimer

This article is for general information only and does not constitute specific advice.  You should not rely on the information in this article.  Fiona Bruce Solicitors recommends that you seek our specific advice if you wish to rely on the any part of this article.  Whilst Fiona Bruce Solicitors makes every effort to ensure that the article is accurate, Fiona Bruce Solicitors excludes all liability for claim, loss, demands or damages of any kind whatsoever (whether such claims, loss, demands or damages were foreseeable, known or otherwise) arising out of or in connection with the use of this article or any other information contained on this website.  Any information provided only applies to England and Wales.

Posted on January 29, 2016 and filed under Personal.

In the News: Crackdown on Whiplash Fraud

Insurance providers have warned that there will be a crackdown on fraud, following a surge in the number of claimants seeking compensation for injuries caused by motor accidents.

In particular, the number of whiplash claims are on the rise, despite there being an overall decrease in road accidents. These claims range from exaggerated claims of genuine injuries, to entirely fictitious claims of accidents that have not occurred, to set-up ‘Cash For Crash’ incidents organised by gangs.


An easy pay-out?

This is following a case where 46 passengers on a bus attempted to claim insurance for whiplash injuries following a collision – £250,000 in total. The claim was found to be fraudulent when the nature of the collision was revealed. A Ford Fiesta, travelling at less than 10mph, bumped into the bus; there was just a small split in the car’s bumper and a £70 bill for damage to the bus.

The bus carried 46 passengers for a party, none of whom received medical attention before attending a night club that night. The case was handled by Aviva, who have long been critics of the UK’s laws on whiplash pay-outs (in the UK, 80% of all personal injury claims are for whiplash, compared to just 3% in France.) Many insurers automatically pay out on all whiplash claims up to £3,000, simply because this option is cheaper than fighting a case.

Aviva said that the injuries were ‘inconsistent with the damage caused to the vehicles’ and rejected the claims. 23 of the 46 passengers then hired lawyers to fight the case, but eventually all claimants dropped the case before going to court.

The head of fraud at Aviva, Tom Gardiner, said: “This claim highlights the outrageous scale of whiplash fraud in the UK… which frankly has become a national disgrace.”

 

The Public Cost of Insurance Fraud

An article on their website titled “Insurance Fraud Costs Everyone” details some facts about the level of insurance fraud in the UK, of which “false motor injury claims are the most common (54%).”

One of the reasons they have listed as a potential cause for the rise in fraud is that a cultural perception that this is a ‘victimless crime.’ However, Aviva argue that insurance fraud leads to a higher premium for innocent policy holders.

In November 2015’s Autumn Statement, George Osborne announced measures to crack down on whiplash claims. The report urged insurers to refuse to settle claims without a medical certificate, and to take a “more robust approach to defending claims.”



Article Disclaimer

This article is for general information only and does not constitute specific advice.  You should not rely on the information in this article.  Fiona Bruce Solicitors recommends that you seek our specific advice if you wish to rely on the any part of this article.  Whilst Fiona Bruce Solicitors makes every effort to ensure that the article is accurate, Fiona Bruce Solicitors excludes all liability for claim, loss, demands or damages of any kind whatsoever (whether such claims, loss, demands or damages were foreseeable, known or otherwise) arising out of or in connection with the use of this article or any other information contained on this website.  Any information provided only applies to England and Wales.

Posted on January 27, 2016 and filed under Personal.