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Millie Dowler family say "don't mess with the no-win, no-fee systems"

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I read with interest today in the Times, that the Dowler family have written a letter to David Cameron making it clear that without the existence of the no-win, no-fee arrangement and the insurance which backs such an agreement, they “…would not have been able to start a case or even threaten it…”, in reference to the case they brought against News International, publisher of the late News of the World.

The Dowler family backed the no-win, no-fee system and have asked the Prime Minister not to mess with the system, referring to the planned Government reforms, which would likely bring an end to such a system.

It was refreshing to see a different perspective on these agreements in the press, as all too often the media uses the same in a negative way, when reporting about the alleged “compensation culture” and how such agreements simply serve to add to the cost borne by  various organisations, such as insurers, local councils and the like. As a solicitor whose livelihood depends heavily on running cases on such a basis, we are often viewed as putting self interest first when defending the validity and indeed necessity of such arrangements.

The experience of the Dowler family demonstrates only too well the all too common “David -v- Goliath” situation many individuals find themselves in, having suffered, often with life changing consequences, at the hands of large, cash rich, organisations, whom they are forced to take on in a legal case. How could an individual of even moderate means even contemplate bringing such an action, knowing that to lose would mean facing enormous legal costs?

Just the thought puts many people off, and without a no-win, no-fee scheme and the insurance which backs these type of agreements, people, such as the Dowler family, and not just people who have suffered personal injury, would never be able to obtain justice and compensation. They would be left, hurt, damaged and still suffering by massive organisations, who know they have the upper hand, because they are large, and powerful and have endless means and expertise.

There is no doubt that the existence of Claims Management Companies, coupled with the ability to advertise legal services, which is a relatively recent phenomenon, has led to some debate that there is a “compensation culture” developing in this country, and I can see that viewpoint.

In the main however, I would venture to suggest that mostly it is media hype leading to hysteria about such a culture. It is not reality. And surely, it is only right and proper, in the 21st century, that people are aware of their rights? That they are not afraid to bring those to justice, who have done wrong, and that they have access to justice, which in many cases, is by means of a “no-win, no fee” arrangement.  

Des Hudson, Chief Executive of the Law Society for England and Wales commented with regards to the actions of the Dowler family: “After all they have been through we welcome – and are humbled by – the intervention of the Dowler family in this debate. They have succeeded in making it clear to the Prime Minister that it is ordinary families with terrible life challenges that will be impacted the most. They will be the losers”.

I couldn’t agree with him more, what a remarkable family the Dowler family are.

By personal injury solicitor and Stephensons’ Partner, Kate Sweeney