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

"I find it hard to accept that a responsible Government would react in such an irrational and indiscriminate way to a legitimate legal challenge. I can only hope that the reports are unfounded, as such a move would amount to a side-swipe at injured people as punishment for an attempt to exercise our democratic right to scrutinise our Government, which is a fundamental part of the rule of law."

Karl also used his address to take the Government to task over another of its "rushed and dangerous" reforms, namely those proposed in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill. "A late amendment was brought forward without any consultation, which seeks to change the law, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 relating to compensation for accidents at work, by removing civil liability for breach of regulations," he said. "That effectively takes the legal position back to how it was at the end of the 19th century."

Karl said despite intentions, the proposed change would affect every future claim for compensation for an accident at work. "The Government's own impact assessment identifies that it had two options - to do a proper job and look at each and every provision relating to strict liability; or to take the simple (and I would say lazy and reckless) approach, which will affect tens of thousands of cases, tilting the playing field in favour of employers, who hold all the cards, and against vulnerable workers, who hold none.

"If the Government's proposal goes through, an injured worker will have to gather the evidence they need to prove that their employer has been negligent. How can they be expected to do that when the employer holds all the knowledge about the firm and the worker holds none? What if the injured person was rendered unconscious in the accident and can't recollect what has happened? What if they were killed in the accident and their family have to gather the evidence? How is that fair?"

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