Government Blunders its way into Possible Judicial Review

neck-braceThe government could be facing a judicial review over a recent set of blunders with reform proposals. The government has been criticised for a number of missteps in recent personal injury reform proposals, some of which have led to the possibility of review.

The government recently unveiled a whole raft of proposals for consultation, which could see significant change to the personal injury sector. Primarily, these would target whiplash claims following traffic accidents, but some of the key measures proposed would also apply to other areas of personal injury law such as workplace accident claims. The proposals are quite varied in their nature, but are largely aimed at curbing what the government perceives to be an excessive claim numbers.

The most prominent blunder that has been revealed is the use of outdated figures in the creation of the consultation document and the setting of proposed levels of financial compensation for minor injuries. The data used for this aspect of the document makes use of old judicial guidelines and therefore fails to to account for an increase made in the Autumn of last year.

The September 2015 revision which the paper overlooks saw a 3.4% increase in financial figures to account for inflation. Perhaps more significant, however, is the fact that there was a much more significant increase in those figures relating to the lowest band of claims for injuries to soft tissue. This group of injuries saw an increase of 20%.

Kerry Underwood, a solicitor, blogger and contributor to a number of major legal publications, suggests that the increase to the lowest soft tissue injury band represents a problem that goes beyond the significant size of the change itself. The kind of injuries that fall into this band, she points out, “are precisely those now under attack by the MoJ as disproportionately high. So the figures that the MoJ think are too high, were thought too low by the top judicial and other experts.”

These blunders, she says, make the consultation paper “misleading and now open to judicial review.”

Separately, the government as a whole has also attracted criticism for its left hand apparently not knowing what its right is doing. Much was made of the proposed reforms to curb whiplash claims being designed to result in a reduction in insurance premiums, said to equate to £40 a year for the average motorist. Law-abiding motorists bearing the cost of excessive, frivolous, or fake injury claims was stated as a justification for the need to introduce such reforms, and it was said that insurers had already promised to pass on their savings. However, within days of the Ministry of Justice beginning consultations, the Autumn statement saw the Treasury an increase to insurance premium tax, which many took to be a measure running counter to personal injury reforms and likely to soften or eliminate the promised reduction in premiums.

Blunders Land Police with £20,000 Compensation Payout

20,000 seems to be something of a magic number for that section of the police force which couldn’t quite be described as its “best and brightest.” A few months ago, 20,000 crime records were lost to a blunder in the IT department. Now, £20,000 have been lost in a compensation payout to a rape victim after their handling of her case was filled with blunders.

The victim in question suffered a great deal as a result of the police’s mishandling of her report. She was reportedly driven to self-harm and even attempted suicide as a result of this mistreatment by police on top of the trauma of the attack itself.

The police force in question was Hampshire Constabulary, and the victim has exercised her right to remain anonymous. She had been on a night out with a group of friends when the attack occurred, and a portion of the party had headed back to one of their homes. The victim was part of this group, and so was the attacker.

It was at this house that the attack took place, and the woman later appeared at the police station to report that she had been raped. If there was one bright side, it was that she was pretty sure the attacker had left forensic evidence on her T-shirt which should make it much easier to link him to the assault and bring him to justice. She promptly told this to police.

This was when the blunders began. The police didn’t bother to test for the forensic evidence on her T-shirt, despite the fact she had specifically told them about it. Neither did they rush to try and apprehend the culprit. Instead, they at first ignored the report and then later decided to arrest the victim. They told her she was lying, and threatened to charge her.

According to the mother of the victim, she “couldn’t cope.” Over the course of this ordeal, she twice attempted to end her own life. It was only months after the original report that the police finally tested her T-shirt thoroughly for the evidence that she had told them about, after the Crown Prosecution Service asked them to do so. The evidence was indeed present and the attacker was finally arrested and last year was jailed for five years.

Now, the police have issued an apologetic statement and agreed to pay the victim compensation of £20,000 for the ordeal they put her through in an out-of-court settlement. Hampshire Constabulary also investigated officers who were involved in the blunder-filled handling of her case. Three such officers have been allowed to resign or retire while the investigation was still ongoing – a move the victim’s mother harshly criticised.

While she said she was glad the officers in question had admitted their wrongdoing, she felt that “if you’re in the middle of an investigation and you’ve been named, they shouldn’t let you resign or retire, because you are answerable to that.”