No limit on justice urges Keith Norman

30 June 2005

ASLEF has urged the Lord Chancellor to reject a proposal that would raise the cash limit in small claims going before the courts. And he repeated his call to the Scottish Justice minister.

The effect of such a move would deprive many workers of access to justice acting general secretary Keith Norman told Lord Falconer QC.

"Unions as a whole pursue more injury cases than arise from any other source. ASLEF, like other unions, does not pursue dubious claims. Our service can be contrasted with that offered by less scrupulous organisations.

ASLEF members have never faced a cost associated with our providing this support. We have consistently provided this service, which has become more important as the state no longer provides legal aid for such cases" he said.

"In the year to 31 December 2004, 115 out of the 140 cases, which were pursued successfully, were for awards of less than £5,000. We understand this is proportionately less than other unions, but is still the significant majority. This includes a small number of cases for less than £1,000, when currently no costs are recoverable.

We, along with our solicitors, essentially absorb this cost. However the point is we simply could not afford to do so if the limit was raised. We also recognise the role claims play in relation to improving health and safety."

"Many injury cases are not easy to win. They are harder to win without good representation. Insurers fight even in the cases where liability is obvious. They have even been known to say they will not pay, because the value is below the small claims limit and therefore they do not anticipate that the claimant can afford to run the case. After all, the loss of a few thousand pounds is a lot to working people, especially those on low wages."

"What at first sight may seem like a positive move, in raising the small claims limit to help claimants, in fact will deprive the greatest proportion of access to justice" said Keith Norman.

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