Labour’s shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter has told the Westminster Legal Policy Forum that it was too early to judge the effectiveness of the Jackson reforms and the ongoing changes to fixed fee claims.
The former barrister said the legal profession was struggling to deal with an ‘unprecedented avalanche’ of change and it was ‘foolhardy’ to try to reform so much in such a short space of time. Slaughter said his party would look to ‘unwind’ some reforms if they are found to be failing in 2015. This would be done, he said, through a more thorough consultation process that would take account of the opinions of members of the legal profession.
A major criticism of the reforms is that there has been an abject failure by the government to listen equally to the views of both sides to the argument, leaning too much in favour of bringing costs down for defendants to the detriment of access to justice for claimants. Slaughter said…
‘Politicians have a problem when they look for quick fixes or listen too much to one side of the argument… It’s a lesson we need to learn – we need to listen to the profession as well as the Daily Mail. I would not want a Labour government to be prisoner to vested interests [but] we have gone too far the other way in ignoring experts in this area simply because politicians think they are feathering their own nests.. I don’t know how the profession – let alone the public – is going to cope with the changes coming through.’
Time will tell how effective or workable the reforms will be. However, Slaughter’s comments may bring some comfort to (albeit with probably an equal measure of scepticism from) claimant lawyers who have already started to feel the effects and will continue to do so over the coming months and years.
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