I listened with particular interest to justice secretary Chris Grayling’s interview on the Today programme about the new reforms of judicial review, which are aimed at making sure only genuine cases receive a hearing. The interviewer John Humphrys quite rightly compared the new changes to a ‘no win, no fee’ model – although Mr Grayling was very careful not to refer to it as such.
What was apparent is that there is a clear lack of consistency in the government’s approach to legal policy. On the one hand its reforms seek to encourage a system where the law can ‘self-edit’ and determine cases that are worth taking forward and in what way. Then, when it comes to reforming the rules regarding personal injury claims, it is doing the opposite by setting limits on claims and restricting current practices which encourage legal advice.
There is consensus on reducing costs and reforming the system, but the government fails to recognise the contradiction in its approaches to these two issues. Helping a victim gain access to justice must always be at the heart of government reforms. With both the judicial review and personal injury changes, there is concern that people of limited financial means will be unable to get the professional legal advice they need.
The British legal system is something to be proud of. In an increasingly standardised, homogeneous world, the UK continues to stand out for its robust and independent legal approach. We need to ensure that any reform of the system does not lead to people that need help and support losing out.
Colin Billing, joint managing director, Camps Solicitors, Merseyside