Lawyers deserve to be jailed for supporting false insurance claims, say businesses

The judiciary has been accused of being too soft on people making false and exaggerated injuries claims in courts.

Judges were also told by business lobby group Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (Isme) they should consider jailing lawyers acting for dishonest claimants.

Business lobby group Isme is to tell the Oireachtas Finance Committee the legal system and the judiciary “are unjustly pro-plaintiff” in personal injury court cases and there is an urgent need for reform.

Isme’s presentation says: “A substantial minority of our judiciary is excessively, unfairly and unjustly pro-plaintiff.”

It claims what it calls the extravagant size of awards in minor injuries cases, coupled with non-existence investigation of fraudulent claims, present a massive incentive for fraudulent actions.

Isme chief executive Neil McDonnell says in his presentation: “Both must be tackled now.”

TDs and senators on the committee will be told people are losing their jobs and businesses closing due to the insurance crisis hitting firms.

Isme says: “There is also a demonstrable tolerance on the Irish bench of significant departure from the factual by plaintiffs in civil actions, either on their own direct behalf, or via their lawyers.

“While we acknowledge the fact that there is no statutory offence of perjury, some recent episodes of legal conduct before our courts suggest that Irish judges should be more willing to consider custodial sentences for errant solicitors.”

Isme claims a minority of our judges discharge their courtroom duties in a manner below that deserved by the citizens of Ireland: “In the conduct of personal injuries cases, it undermines confidence in the impartiality of the justice system in general, and the constitutional property rights in particular.”

Mr McDonnell’s presentation says there is a need for the minimal oversight and sanctions regime proposed in the Judicial Council Bill 2017 to be enacted as soon as possible. “And we need judges to commit to meaningful continuous professional development, as other professionals are required to do,” he says.

 

Insurance reform should be put in the hands of Justice and Equality Minister Charlie Flanagan, Isme added.

Mr McDonnell said Isme was not calling for the head of Junior Minister Michael D’Arcy, who has responsibility for insurance reform, as such a call would achieve nothing.

Isme said insurers were increasing business insurance premiums and making increased profits.

“We are concerned about possible collusive or cartel-like behaviour among some of our insurance companies,” he says in his presentation.

And the Alliance for Insurance Reform is set to tell the committee lawyers and insurance companies will do anything to stop real reform.

It accuses the Central Bank of engaging in “data vandalism” by dropping the publication of a number of statistical publications on insurance.

The Alliance, which represents 36,000 organisations, said businesses were closing on a weekly basis due to “savage” hikes in premiums, with others unable to get cover.

“It is clear to us that the dead hand of vested interests and a lack of political will are grinding the response to the crisis to a halt,” director Peter Boland said.

There was an urgent need for a Garda fraud investigation unit, and a recalibration of awards.

Mr Boland said his group was bewildered at how long it was taking to set up a fraud unit.

Irish Independent

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