The family of the murdered school girl Milly Dowler have said that planned changes to “no win, no fee” cases would have made it impossible for them to pursue compensation from News International. In a letter, the Dowler family have pleaded with David Cameron to stop the proposed changes which would take “rights away from ordinary people so that large companies could print whatever they like”.
However, the government has responded by saying that the proposed changes are intended to prevent “spurious cases”.
Recent media speculation has indicated that the family of Milly are to receive a substantial 7 figure settlement as a result of the hacking in to her phone by the News of the World. It is also thought that the deal will include a personal donation to charity by Rupert Murdoch.
In answer to the latest developments on this contentious issue, the government spokesman responded: “We are absolutely committed to ensuring that people can access the justice system, regardless of their financial situation, which is why we are committed to maintaining ‘no-win, no-fee’ arrangements.”
The Dowler family letter to David Cameron states that they believed that they were fortunate to be able to use the No Win No fee system as it currently is, and that without the safety net insurance that the conditional fee agreement (No Win No Fee) provided, they would not have been able to take the risk of pursuing a claim or even to make the allegation as the risk of huge costs would have ruined the family financially.
Earlier in 2011, Justice Secretary Ken Clarke announced plans to alter the No Win No Fee case system in England and Wales. Mr. Clarke said lawyers would no longer be able to claim or receive a success fee from the losing side, and should instead receive a share of the clients compensation settlement damages.
It is interesting to see that the Dowlers have said they understand that the changes to the law and claims system would be relevant to thousands of people who may well wish to sue News International or other organisations and bodies and urged the Government via Mr Cameron to abandon the proposed changes.
In an excerpt from their letter, the Dowlers state to Mr. Cameron “We had understood that you were on the side of the people, not the press. Please do not change the law so that the ability to sue the papers is lost. “Although we may have received a sum that meant the cost of the insurance would have been affordable, most cases finish with settlements that do not cover the cost of insurance and so people will not bother,” “We are sure that you do not want to go down in history as the prime minister who took rights away from ordinary people so that large companies could print whatever they like and break the law without being able to challenge them.”
The body representing Solicitors in the claims process (The Law Society)has warned that the proposed Government changes seriously undermine access to justice and notably welcomed the letter to Mr. Cameron from the Dowler family and that they believe that that the letter will finally bring some balanced debate to the ever pressing ‘Compensation Culture’ claim of those opposing the Regulated Claims Industry and Solicitors pursuing compensation.
Levi Bellfield was jailed for life earlier this year for murdering 13-year-old Milly Dowler, after she went missing on the way home from School.
In the Summer of 2011, it was discovered that Milly’s phone had been hacked by the News of the World.
The public outcry after it became apparent that a private investigator had hacked into the phone after the murdered schoolgirl went missing and deleted messages, giving the family false hope that she was still alive, was intense and it’s fair to say that the public were disgusted. This in turn, created intense pressure on the News International group, which responded by shutting the paper down.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman has been quoted as saying: “There are many deserving cases brought before the courts. But we have to stop the abuse of the system by others pursing excessive, costly and unnecessary cases. Under the current arrangements, innocent defendants can face enormous costs, which can discourage them from fighting cases. This simply isn’t fair.
“So, in order to ensure that the no-win, no-fee cases continue to provide fair access to justice for all, we have to make changes.
“By balancing the costs more fairly between the claimant and defendant, these changes will ensure that claimants will still be able to bring deserving claims, and receive damages where they are due. Most importantly they will make the no-win, no-fee system sustainable for the future.”
Why a losing defendant should share their cost of losing the claim with the winning party is beyond us and the likes of the Law Society and expert legal professionals. Once again, it seems that the Government is bending to the huge pressure of the insurance industry who make increased and huge profits year on year.