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Civil Litigation Section

Dixon: Small claims reforms a blow to access to justice

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  • Catherine Dixon

Law Society chief executive Catherine Dixon has critiqued the proposed reforms to small claims procedure, claiming they would strike a devasting blow to justice.

In a detailed critique, Dixon writes that, as an essential part of the civil justice system, the small claims procedure is designed to handle low-value disputes. It enables the public and businesses to pursue low-value claims with the aim of resolving them quickly and fairly.

Dixon continues to say that many personal injury claims, even at lower value, can be complex and result in an inequality of arms where the claimant is unrepresented and seeking to bring a claim against a defendant who can afford to take legal advice.

The proposed five-fold increase to the existing small claims limit would deny many thousands of people legal advice and representation by a solicitor. The linked proposal to remove the right to general damages for less serious soft-tissue injuries would have a further and profound impact on access to justice.

These proposals are a further devastating blow to UK justice and would hit the most vulnerable in society; individuals who may not have the confidence or the ability to go to court and assert their right to justified and fair redress.

The Law Society, asserts Dixon, is gravely concerned about this issue and will be raising it with parliamentarians and is also building the case to show the damage to access to justice for injury victims, joining forces with the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, the Motor Accident Solicitors Society and others to work to encourage the government to reconsider its proposals.

 

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