Examination of Witnesses
Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders bill
Nick Starling: I want to distinguish between catastrophic injury claims and the more straightforward ones. Our members are less involved in clinical cases, but they deal with massive motor claims—catastrophic claims there—and it is absolutely essential that people are compensated according to their needs. That is vital and needs to happen. I would merely make the observation that the 25% limit is not a target; it is an absolutely maximum that lawyers can take. It need not necessarily be taken.
Looking at the vast majority of straightforward claims I think that that is where the problems in the system lie; they attract disproportionate costs. We now have an extremely simple motor portal system that requires very little input. Liability is usually determined very easily. As Muiris Lyons just pointed out, the £1,350 fee for that—£1,200 plus VAT—is utterly disproportionate to what must happen. We think that a fundamental part of cleaning up the system is a substantial reduction in those fixed fee costs. I know that that is not in the Bill, but it is an important part of the whole system of reform. If you reduced these fixed fee costs, the problem of referral fees—which we would also like to see banned—goes away because it would not be worth people’s while to pay a large sum of money to get an even larger sum in costs.