By: 3 October 2014
Government plans to increase mesothelioma victims’ legal costs are halted

The High Court has halted the Government’s plans to get rid of recoverability of success fees and insurance premiums in mesothelioma cases, saying that a proper impact assessment must be carried out before any such move is made.

In a judicial review, brought by the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum, Mr Justice Davis said that a review needed to be carried out of the likely consequences of the Government’s proposals, as laid out in the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act of 2012.

Commenting on the supposed review the Government argued that it had already carried out in 2013, Mr Justice Davis said that “no reasonable Lord Chancellor, faced with the duty imposed on him by Section 48 of the Act, would have considered that the exercise in fact fulfilled that duty”.

Tony Whitston, Chair of the UK wide Forum of Asbestos Support Groups, called on the Government to see the judgement as an opportunity to take a new approach based on justice for victims of big financial institutions.

“The old plans were rooted in a culture of secret deals with insurers and flawed consultations which excluded the victims of asbestos. Now is the time for a change,” he said.

“We need a new approach based on prioritising policies that help victims and their families. A proper review is needed, one based upon evidence of the likely consequences of making these changes. We need to understand that it will take three to five years for that evidence to emerge. This matter must go back before Parliament.

“It is time we had an open and transparent debate about an agenda for justice not another shabby deal done in the dark,” he added.

Litigation Futures reported that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) was committed “to finding the best way to get claims settled fairly and quickly”.

“It remains our view that the Ministry of Justice review of this issue was conducted fully and openly and we are disappointed with this judgment. We will now consider our next steps,” said a spokesperson.