June 24, 2011

The UK Government’s view of justice is “based on the interests of big business insurance companies, not the person in the street,” claimed Andrew Dismal of the Access to Justice Action Group this week.

As the aforementioned government published its so-called Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, pressing ahead with the Jackson 5 Review’s recommendations for reforming the civil litigation system, Dismal fumed agrammatically: “The Government do not care about the ability of ordinary people to enforce their rights.”

The son of a a Bridlington hotelier, Dismal instinctively reached for a simile drawn from the hospitality sector to help make his point. HMG’s proposed new justice system, he claimed, will be like top terror target London’s swanky Ritz hotel. “You can check out any time you like…” No, hang on. “Anyone can go there, but only if you can afford it.”

Anticipating Bankstone News’ bewilderment at the paradoxical semantics of this apparently ambiguous formulation, Dismal hastens to clarify: “Justice Ministers can [go there], senior judges can, but the average “no win, no fee” claimant cannot.”

It seems only sensible that judges and so forth should be allowed into the justice system, but it does seem a bit harsh to shut out average claimants – or to let them in for a bit, provided they observe the formal dress code, but then politely suggest they might like to leave if they’re just hanging around without coughing up £40 for tea and cucumber sandwiches or whatever.

The winners, Dismal presses on, will be fat cat insurance company shareholders, to whom the measly £5,000 to which average claimants on average or below average incomes might at best aspire would be as nothing, a mere trifle, a pitiful drop in an ocean of affluence. Fat cat shareholders, indeed, would probably not even “dignify their spit” with such a sum.

“Millionaires in the cabinet” Dismal observes bitterly, “cannot, or will not, comprehend the impact of these changes on their victims.”

Cunningly, the former Hendon MP, attempts to drive a wedge between the partners in Britain’s fragile ruling coalition: “After putting the NHS into turmoil, the coalition seems determined to do the same to the courts. We expect this from the Conservatives, but the Lib Dems ought to know better and defend access to justice, not destroy it.”

The Bill is a sledgehammer to crack a nut,” Dismal goes on. But that’s probably (almost) enough clichés for one week. Perhaps just one more.

How much does justice cost in twitter-twattering Dodgy Dave’s Old Etonian Big Society Britain?

If you have to ask…


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