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The most prominent blunder that has been revealed is the use of outdated figures in the creation of the consultation document and the setting of proposed levels of financial compensation for minor injuries.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.

Data Protection Blunders Land Justice Ministry With £180,000 Fine

The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) has ordered the Ministry of Justice to pay a £180,000 civil penalty. The fine follows what the ICO described in a statement as “serious failings” which led to lack of proper data protection in 75 separate prisons around England and Wales.

The fine is one of the biggest penalties ever handed down to a governmental department. The blunders made by the Ministry of Justice led to sensitive data being handled insecurely by a number of English and Welsh prisons. Specifically, the Ministry of Justice failed to tell these prisons that they had to turn on encryption when using new backup digital storage.

The issue stems from a previous blunder where data relating to roughly 16,000 individuals in prison  were lost. Following this, in May 2012, prisons were provided with new hard drives which had an advanced encryption function in order to securely store data. However, prisons were not made aware that they had to actively turn on encryption at their end in order for it to properly function. As a result, 75 prisons used the hard drives without encryption being active, leading to sensitive data being stored without the levels of security that should have been necessary.

This insecure storage of important information lasted for more than a year before the blunder was uncovered and the situation was rectified. During this period of unencrypted data storage, in May 2013, one hard drive was lost. The hard drive in question contained information relating to just under 3,000 prisoners, some of whom had links to organised criminal groups. All of this data was unencrypted and, therefore, relatively easy to access should the hard drive fall into the wrong hands.

When the situation did come to light, it was as a result of a direct investigation by the ICO.

Stephen Echersley, head of enforcement for the ICO, said of the situation: “The fact that a government department with security oversight for prisons can supply equipment to 75 prisons throughout England and Wales without properly understanding, let alone telling them, how to use it, beggars belief.”

However, it seems that the situation has at last been rectified to help prevent any data crises in the future. The ICO has issued assurance that the ministry has now taken the necessary steps to ensure that encryption is active on all hard drives used within prisons, and data is now being kept securely.

The Ministry of Justice was previously issued with a fine of £140,000 in October 2014 for separate data protection blunders. This incident saw the details of over a thousand prisoners emailed multiple times to the families of three inmates.