In the Media

Civil rights concern over costs-shifting

PUBLISHED October 24, 2012

Thursday 25 October 2012 by John Hyde

Lawyers representing claimants against the police have warned that abuses of state power will go unchallenged under costs reforms coming into force in April.

The Police Actions Lawyers Group wants qualified one-way costs-shifting extended from personal injury to cover all civil liberties cases.

In a submission to the Civil Procedure Rule Committee, the group argues that litigants not entitled to legal aid will have no means to challenge civil rights breaches and serious wrongdoing. Currently, claims can be instigated on a conditional fee agreement, underpinned by after-the-event insurance. From April, insurance cannot be recovered from the defending side.

In civil liberties cases, insurance is often higher than the damages awards, which would leave even successful claimants out of pocket.

The Jackson report, which formed the basis for much of the government's civil litigation reform package, recommended that QOCS apply to cases such as judicial reviews and those where there was a grossly disproportionate difference in resources between the parties involved.

Nogoh Ofer, from London firm Bhatt Murphy and member of the Police Actions Lawyers Group, said: 'Unless you're very rich or entitled to legal aid you won't be able to make a claim.'