Uplift in exceptional circumstances

Part of Civil Liability Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 10:45 am ar 11 Medi 2018.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Gloria De Piero Gloria De Piero Shadow Minister (Justice) 10:45, 11 Medi 2018

This amendment would allow judges to increase the amount of damages payable where they determine the tariff amount to be insufficient compensation, rather than capping judges’ ability to increase compensation awards to a percentage specified by the Lord Chancellor, as the Bill currently does. Once again, I want to point out the long-standing tradition of trusting judges, rather than having politicians interfere with the discretion of the courts—a tradition that the Government are inexplicably undermining with this Bill.

Clause 5(3) states that if the court thinks there should be an uplift from the tariff because of the severity of the injury, the amount by which the court can increase the payment is limited according to a cap set by the Lord Chancellor. Not only are the courts being fettered by a tariff, but when they consider the tariff to be inappropriate, they will get their judicial wings clipped again. This reduces judges to little more than errand boys for the Lord Chancellor.

Many Lord Chancellors these days are not lawyers. They will rely on the advice of their officials, who need not have legal training either. If the Tories do not trust the judges, who do they trust? What are they scared of? What evidence do they have that judges will behave badly and award huge sums? What court cases can they point to in which that has happened? I can find none at all, and nor can the experts whom my team and I have consulted.

I suspect the insurers fear that without a cap, every tariff award will be taken to court, where judges will apply an uplift and blow up their tariff. If that is what they fear, it suggests that they secretly accept that the proposed tariffs are too low. Perhaps the reason for all these restrictions—all these fetters on what a judge can decide for themselves—is that the Government and the insurance industry are running scared that judges will, indeed, rebel against them. Not because judges are intrinsically rebellious—far from it, some would say; they are conservative with a big and a small c—but because they have a duty to be impartial and deliver justice, and the Government’s proposed tariff does not even remotely do that. Amendment 18 would restore judges’ lost autonomy.