Senior judges argue against proposed guidelines on personal injury awards

Barrister's Wig

21 February 2021

A number of senior higher court judges have circulated memos to colleagues arguing against proposed guidelines that would lead to reductions in personal injury awards.

The guidelines were produced by a seven-judge committee of the Judicial Council, which was chaired by the president of the High Court, Ms Justice Mary Irvine.

A meeting of the council involving up to 160 judges to discuss the proposals, held remotely on February 5th, was adjourned to Saturday next because judges wanted more time to consider the proposals, it is understood.

Since then a number of memos have been circulated privately by judges to colleagues arguing against the proposed guidelines – including one from a judge of the Court of Appeal.

A collective memo from a number of judges experienced in personal injury cases arguing against, and a number of individual contributions have also been shared. Not a single memo in favour has emerged.

Insurance costs

The Government is hoping that guidelines produced by the council will see personal injury awards fall and that this in turn will lead to a reduction in insurance costs.

When the council met remotely on February 5th, a vote on whether that meeting should decide on adopting the guidelines, or defer the matter to a later date, was tied.

The draft was circulated to judges on February 1st. Some felt they needed more time to consider and exactly half of them voted against deciding on them on that day.

A casting vote by Chief Justice Frank Clarke then deferred the matter to this coming Saturday.

In one memo, a High Court judge argued the guidelines could see injured people getting awards that fall “significantly short” of what could be regarded as fair and reasonable.

The judge said the suggested “recalibration” of compensation had gone too far and that younger people with certain injuries and disabilities would be particularly unfairly treated.

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