Justice Ministry tries to charge low fixed-rate costs but isn’t registered on the small claims portal
Thompsons Solicitors says the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is operating a double standard by failing to use its own personal injury ‘portal’ in cases where it is the defendant.
In the last 12 months, Thompsons has lodged 172 cases involving the MoJ on behalf of injured clients but in each instance has found that the MoJ has not registered itself on its own system.
In 2014, the government introduced a portal for all personal injury claims – an electronic communication system for processing ‘low value’ compensation cases. Claimants are obligated to put their claim and all correspondence through a portal that the government claimed on its website would mean “decisions can be communicated more quickly and easily” and at a reduced “cost of communication”.
“Despite having forced through its use by everyone else in all cases, the MoJ hasn’t bothered to register itself on a portal it insisted was set up,” said Tom Jones, head of policy at Thompsons Solicitors.
The portal limits what lawyers can do for their clients and offers fixed legal costs, regardless of the amount of work required on a case. The portal and the level of fixed costs was designed by the government in close collaboration with insurance companies – the people most likely to benefit financially from a regime that restricts lawyers charging for the real time spent on a case and removes them from the personal injury claims process where possible.
Despite not being registered, the MoJ’s legal team tries to force Thompsons to charge only the fixed costs associated with the portal process.
“As they aren’t registered on the portal, we aren’t able to use the portal system to communicate with them as defendants. This means we’re incurring additional costs which they then refuse to pay,” explains Tom.
“It’s an absolute farce that the government brought in major reforms to the legal system – and will bring in more if it gets its way – and yet can’t get its own house in order to use them.
“Claimants don't have any choice about whether to use the portal. Why should the MoJ opt out but then seek to benefit from its (unfairly) fixed costs regime?
“This is yet another example of the government making one rule for themselves and one for everyone else. They harp on about addressing the so-called ‘fraud culture’ and the issue of ‘excessive costs’ but they are being dishonest themselves – not adhering to their own rules and running up costs they won’t pay back.”
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