Wednesday 11 December 2019

Judiciary ready to help reform injury awards, says chief justice

But insurance pressure group has fears about slow pace of change

Chief Justice of Ireland Justice Frank Clarke
Chief Justice of Ireland Justice Frank Clarke
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

The judiciary stands ready to play its part in recalibrating personal injury awards, Chief Justice Frank Clarke has told a conference.

Mr Justice Clarke, Ireland's most senior judge, said he had selected the members of the personal injuries committee that forms part of the new Judicial Council, and it was ready to get going as soon as it was formally established.

However, delays in setting up the committee have come in for criticism from the Alliance for Insurance Reform.

The Alliance said the legislation for the setting-up of a personal injuries committee was passed three months ago, and the judges should have been appointed to the committee from week one.

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The committee has been given the task of recalibrating personal injury award levels.

But it has not been formally established in law, and will work on an informal basis. Mr Justice Clarke said this meant they would be able to "hit the ground running" when the Judicial Council is set up.

The committee looking at award levels cannot be formally established until judges have been appointed to all the committees to be set up under the Judicial Council Bill.

The Bill also provides for committees on judicial conduct, judicial studies, judicial support and sentencing guidelines, as well as an information committee.

The setting-up of the personal injuries committee is six weeks behind schedule.

Mr Justice Clarke identified members for the committee to set injury award guidelines after consulting the presidents of the various courts, he told an Insurance Ireland conference on fraud.

"I am mindful of the urgency of this. I and my colleagues read the papers the same as everyone else," he said.

Awards for soft tissue injuries in Ireland are 4.4 times higher than in England.

The Alliance for Insurance Reform said yesterday it welcomed the appointment of the members designate of the personal injuries guidelines committee.

But Peter Boland, of the Alliance, added: "The Judicial Council Bill was signed into law 88 days ago. These appointments should have been made in one week.

"The only losers from this foot-dragging are the hundreds and thousands of community groups, charities and small businesses who are crippled by increasing costs."

Irish Independent

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