Voters are not happy with the way things are going. The latest poll from Ipsos shows that nearly 9 in 10 Britons believe Britain needs a fresh team of leaders. Presumably, the Government will attempt to win some favour through next week’s King’s Speech on 7 November, when it will set out what it plans to do next.
Investment in justice is not, it appears, very high up anyone’s agenda. The Law Society Gazette reported from the recent Labour party conference on the shadow justice secretary’s rallying cry to the profession: “We want your ideas for how to fix the system - just don’t ask for any money.”
But one of the cornerstones of a fair and caring society is the notion of justice for all regardless of money or status. A just society should treat the most vulnerable people with care and compassion. When anyone could be a victim of negligence, justice should really be a mainstream issue.
APIL is committed to being the voice of injured victims of negligence. In late November we will host politicians at our reception in the House of Commons and brief them on the key issues affecting injured people which need some parliamentary time and attention.
For some victims of negligence, the law falls woefully short.
No subject seems to galvanise APIL’s membership more than the law on bereavement damages in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. They are the ones who must deliver the news to grieving people that their relationships are not recognised as being sufficiently close in the eyes of the law, so they are not eligible for the statutory bereavement payment. The law was passed in 1982 and does not include adult children, grandparents, grandchildren, or even a father if he was not married to the mother when the child was born. It is high time this was looked at again and made fit for modern Britain.
Victims of asbestos-related lung cancer are left out as they miss out on full compensation if they cannot trace all the employers they worked for who are responsible for their exposure to the deadly dust. This can be an impossible task when decades have passed and records are destroyed. Asbestos-related lung cancer is almost indistinguishable from mesothelioma yet the path to justice for each is wildly different. Mesothelioma sufferers need only trace one responsible employer or insurer to get their full compensation. It is obvious that introducing the same allowance for victims of asbestos-related lung cancer would be the fair thing to do.
Survivors of child sexual abuse are also treated unfairly as the law imposes an unrealistic time limit on how long they get to bring a claim for damages against their abusers. In England and Wales survivors must bring a civil claim within three years of the abuse, or within three years of turning 18 if they were abused as a child. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse have been through unimaginable horrors and speaking about what happened to them makes them relive the trauma. It often takes many years for a victim to feel they can talk to anyone. Scotland and other jurisdictions have abolished the time bar, and the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) was very clear in its recommendation that it should be lifted. It’s time for some action.
The law is not perfect. Some areas are in desperate need of reform. It is essential that the law is fit for purpose so that it can do its job properly and help to put injured victims of negligence back on track. Their needs must be at the heart of policymaking.