Answering questions on potential problems with the government’s proposed PI reforms from members of the Commons Juice Committee on 16 January, justice minister Dickie Keen (aka Lord Keen of Lie) explained patiently that something will turn up and it’ll all be fine.

Barring claimants with injuries worth under £5k from recouping their legal costs, Lord K accepted, would significantly increase the number of persons obliged to seek justice without the benefit of legal representation. But, he insisted, litigants in person (LIPs) should have no trouble negotiating the complexities of the English civil justice system unassisted.

There’s really nothing much to it, he suggested. And if LIPs really felt they needed help, someone or other would probably be only too happy to provide it. Their union, perhaps. Or maybe the Citizens Advice Bureau. It would give them something to do. Or what about Claims Manufacturing Companies (CMCs) – couldn’t they get involved?

Responding to quibbles along the lines of ‘weren’t CMCs supposed to a key factor in creating and sustaining the fanatical compensation cult that is currently threatening the entire fabric of British society’, Keen noted that, obviously, there were one or two bad apples amongst the CMCs of this world, but most of these chaps were perfectly reputable and it would be good to get them involved in a new sector of the market where they could provide a refreshing alternative to Before The Event insurance for trivial PI claims.

When some smart-arse pointed out that, just because a case is low-value, it doesn’t mean it isn’t complex, Lord K suggested that judges or perhaps ‘parties’ could step in to have the cases taken somewhere else where complicated legal stuff could more practicably be accommodated. Or, better still, claimants could simply give up and go away.

Quizzed on the fairness and appropriateness of denying so many smaller claimants the chance of legal representation, Lord K stressed that the most urgent matter was not what should be done but when – and, what with all these fraudulent whiplash claims about these days, that ‘when’ could not come soon enough.

Exactly how many fraudulent claims are there about these days?, someone wanted to know. To which, Lord K patiently reiterated that this was really not the point. Far more important than getting bogged down in a lot of tedious detail, he made clear, was getting something done – and getting it done quickly.

The beauty of a one-size fits all solution like the proposed small claims limit increase, he emphasised, was that restricting little people’s access to legal support would make them much more likely to ‘pause and think about the merits of their claim before they make it’.

Quite right too! If people can’t afford justice, they’ve no right going round demanding compensation every time they happen to sustain some minor injury or other. It’s basic common sense, really, if you think about it.

And, if that seems a trifle harsh, there’s plenty more to come where that came from. So you’d better get used to the idea.


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