By now you may be thinking that the UK is a tort-happy country.
Well, that is the impression given by the Government’s “tort reform” law, introduced in June this year, which makes it harder for the wealthy to avoid paying the costs of their actions.
But is the UK a tort heaven?
A new report, released by the charity The Law Institute of Victoria, claims the law is not in fact tort-free.
The report is based on a review of the legal history of tort law in Australia and the UK, as well as international law.
The study found that the current system of tort litigation is “trivial” and has “significantly limited the ability of the state to challenge the conduct of a defendant.”
“The government’s new tort reform legislation appears to be a significant departure from international tort law, which has consistently found that, when the state is required to pay damages, the cost of litigation is a significant determinant of the outcome,” it said.
“In particular, international law has consistently held that, if the state has the power to compel the conduct, it must have the ability to do so.”
The report also criticised the way in which the current law has been applied, including the “puzzling” nature of the case definition in relation to “actual malice”.
“The government appears to have been relying on the existing doctrine of malice to justify its new tort reforms, and this has the potential to undermine any potential deterrent to future wrongful conduct,” the report said.
“It is unclear whether, in the absence of malice, the government could have reasonably expected the new legislation to be subject to a higher standard of review, which would have allowed for the removal of the ‘involuntary’ element of the law.”
The Law Institute is an Australian non-profit organization dedicated to improving the legal system and promoting social justice.
It promotes “justice for all”.
Its director of policy and advocacy, Sarah White, said: “Tort reform is an important policy and legislative tool to increase accountability for the actions of the private sector and the public sector.
The current legal system has limited the power of the government to challenge a defendant’s conduct.
This means that if a defendant is found to have breached the law, the burden of proof is placed on the defendant to prove that their conduct was lawful and that their actions were reasonable.”
In a statement, the Department of Justice said the government would review the law to ensure it complied with international and statutory standards of tort reform.
It added: “The law we have passed reflects the need to address the problem of high levels of corporate responsibility.
The Government has a duty to protect the taxpayer, while protecting public interest, and the legislation we have introduced today will help to do that.”
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