Justice Minister Naomi Long has today launched a consultation seeking views on possible legislation to require all compensation settlements to children for personal injuries to be approved by a court.
Currently in Northern Ireland only those compensation settlements for a child which are agreed during legal proceedings must be approved by the court.
Usually the award is then managed by the Court Funds Office until the child turns 18.
However, if compensation for a child is agreed before any legal proceedings are issued, seeking court approval is voluntary. This means that court protection of the settlement is not always provided.
The absence of a legal requirement for all compensation settlements for a child to be approved by a court gives rise to a concern that there may cases in which parents, sometimes without the benefit of legal advice, may be settling claims with insurance companies for a sum that may not properly compensate the child or be utilised in the child’s best interests.
A judicially led Review of Civil Justice in 2017 recommended legislation to address this issue.
Justice Minister Naomi Long said: “I want to ensure, in a proportionate way, that children are properly compensated for personal injuries and that there is appropriate protection of their awards. This consultation seeks views on whether or not there is a need for legislation and, if so, how that legislation might work.”
The Department is therefore seeking views on whether and if so how, it should legislate to compel court approval of all compensation settlements for children agreed outside legal proceedings, in particular, whether this should apply to all such settlements, or only those over a certain value.
The consultation will run from 7 July 2021 to 24 September 2021.
Notes to editors:
- The Courts Funds Office is an office within the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service whose role includes managing awards for minors on behalf of the court.
- Legislation was recommended by Lord Justice Gillen’s Review of Civil Justice (Recommendation CJ34). Available at https://judiciaryni.uk/publications/review-groups-report-civil-justice.
- For enquiries relating to the consultation, please email: AToJ.Consultation@justice-ni.gov.uk. A young person’s version of the consultation paper is available on CitizenSpace and the Department’s website. Hard copies and alternative formats of the consultation document are available on request from this email address.
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