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Legal Costs Must Not Be Cut At The Expense Of Access To Justice

LONDON, February 14, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

Karl Tonks, a partner with Fentons Personal Injury Solicitors LLP and president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), has told his members he fears that "costs will be cut at the expense of compromising access to justice, if not denying it altogether for some claimants."

Speaking at the annual President's Lunch in London, Karl said the Government's stated purpose in its civil justice reform agenda - to cut costs, without damaging access to justice - was a worthy aim. But he said in the aggressive rush to reform, the rights of injured people to independent legal advice and fair compensation were being overlooked.

"Vulnerable people are going to suffer - of that I have no doubt," he said. "In any process of change worth doing, it's worth taking the time to consider all the options and to do it well for the long term. For example the recently announced new high-speed rail link to Manchester and Leeds will take as long as 20 years to put into place - presumably because the Government wants to get it right. I am not suggesting we postpone civil justice change for that long, but surely a system which serves vulnerable, injured people deserves at least the same kind of careful, balanced consideration?"

Karl said he was pleased the Government had now recognised that it needed to pause and reconsider the timetable for further reforms which would extend the current scheme dealing with compensation for road traffic injuries to other types of cases. "But it's a huge personal regret to me that it's taken the spectre of APIL's judicial review proceedings to make the Government come to that view," he said. "Worse still, now we have been forced actually to issue proceedings about the way the Government reached its conclusions on the need to cut costs, it has been reported that an arbitrary increase of the small claims court limit to £15,000 for all types of case, is being considered. This would force seriously injured people into a system which is fit only for settling disputes about faulty goods and services, not for dealing with complex matters of law.

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