I strongly sympathise with J Howard Shelley’s analysis and diagnosis of the problems relating to costs (Letters, 1 October). However, I am not sure about his prescription.
I do not believe that the authorities are actually working to try to reduce actual costs – what they are working to reduce is recoverable costs. The consequence of reducing recoverable costs is, of course, to make litigation less cost-effective.
This is the key to understanding what the authorities are up to. If you reduce the net cost benefit of bringing a case, then you reduce the number of people bringing cases. It is noticeable and corroborative that all the various things that encouraged litigation, such as legal aid and recoverable conditional fees and recoverable insurance premiums, have all been discouraged as part of a concerted attempt to reduce civil litigation.
The authorities hope by reducing civil litigation to reduce the cost to the state of running civil litigation. The interesting thing, however, is that the state actually makes a profit out of civil litigation, so this is a mistake.
It is also claimed that civil litigation damages the economy. You do not have to be a fully signed-up Keynesian economist to know that economic theory demonstrates exactly the opposite. Civil litigation in fact benefits the economy by helping the circulation of money within it.
The principal persons or entities that wish to reduce civil litigation are those who benefit most from the status quo. So big companies do not like ordinary people suing them. In particular, the insurance ‘industry’ dislikes easy access to justice for ordinary people, and has been prepared to back its dislike with large donations to the Conservative party to influence them to act to reduce access to justice.
Also, the media puppets of the current establishment (especially the red-top newspapers), regularly disseminate untrue and probably dishonest propaganda that our litigation system is headed towards the American example, where very few cases per head of population are brought – some of which result in unreasonably large awards (‘casino litigation’).
In fact, all sensible analysis has shown that our litigation has been headed more towards the western European type, where there are lots of cases brought for relatively small sums of money (‘humdrum litigation’).
This may have misled decision-makers as to the facts and therefore into making a prescription for false symptoms. Or it may have provided cover for more malignantly motivated actions.
Tilbrooks Solicitors, Ongar, Essex