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Page 2, line 6, at end insert—
("( ) standard amounts of compensation to be paid to persons who have sustained criminal injury by stabbing other than to internal organs, tendons or ligaments.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is an issue to which we did not refer directly in Committee. However, the issue of stabbing is still causing anxiety to those concerned in particular with personal injury law who feel that the tariff is inadequate in one respect.

In consultation with the department we have been told that stabbing, particularly stabbing to the torso, is recognised by references to injuries caused to organs and that stabbing other than to the torso, or indeed sometimes to the torso itself presumably, can be recognised by injuries to tendons or ligaments. No one

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with as little knowledge of human physiology as I have should stand at the Dispatch Box to move an amendment of this kind but I am assured that there are results of stabbing other than injuries to internal organs, tendons and ligaments which are recognised in common law; which attract compensation when they arise as a result of accidents at work or medical negligence—because stabbing need not be deliberate and criminal—and which could, without too much difficulty and without stretching too greatly the tariff, be recognised in the tariff. This, again, is an amendment to the Bill because that is the way we have to deal with it. We are not looking for it to be on the face of the Bill; we are looking, because this is a probing amendment, for some recognition that there are injuries resulting from stabbing which are at the moment excluded from consideration and could well be considered. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I believe that the noble Lord makes a wrong assumption in that injury caused by stabbing can of course include damage to internal organs but it can also include scarring and trauma. All of that can be taken into account when an application is made.

The approach in the tariff, both in the description of injuries and the standard amounts of compensation assigned to each one, is taken from current practice in personal injury cases. It focuses on the effects of the injury, as that is what compensation is for, rather than the means by which the injury was inflicted. Thus, in relation to puncture wounds, which of course may be caused by any number of methods and implements, the tariff provides for scarring, soft tissue damage (tendons, ligaments etc.) and damage to internal organs, with special provision for laparotomy where an abdominal wound has required internal surgical investigation.

That is the correct and logical approach. To attempt to single out stabbing as a separate category, in cases where no significant internal damage results, would be inconsistent with current practice. There is no reason to differentiate it from all the other extremely unpleasant ways in which a person may be violently attacked. Compensation must be based on the physical and mental injury caused. The tariff represents a massive survey of the injuries which the board has actually come across in its work. For example, in the case of injuries to the upper limb (hand, arm, shoulder), the tariff lists numerous injuries, including paralysis, permanent serious impairment of grip and scarring—which may well have been caused by stabbing or some other means. Nevertheless, if a new injury cropped up which could not rightly be placed in one of these descriptions, as I have said before, it could be added under the procedure for new injury descriptions. The amendment, as well as being inappropriate to the Bill—the noble Lord has made that very point—could not assist in shaping whatever changes might be required to the tariff in the future. I hope that the amendment will not be pressed.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, it was never my intention to press the amendment, as I made clear when I moved it. The Minister is, of course, correct in

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that fundamentally the tariff must reflect the effect of the injury rather than the way in which the injury was caused. We accept that. What we are doing is taking this as an example of the way in which the tariff is as yet in an incomplete state. The Minister recognised that when she referred to the provision for the inclusion of new injuries. I suspect that something along these lines may well have to be included in the tariff as a new injury in the coming years. It may not be described as stabbing, because of course stabbing is the means rather than the effect. There are gaps here as regards human physiology which may not have arisen in the extensive sampling to which the Minister referred but which will undoubtedly occur in the future. I do not regret having drawn attention to the issue. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 [Claims and awards]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 7:

Page 3, line 7, after ("Scheme") insert ("and for such periods to be extended in the circumstances of any particular case if in the opinion of the person determining the claim it is just and reasonable to do so").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 7 refers again to the issue of time limits for the submission of applications. When I proposed in Committee the extension of the normal time limit from two to three years I was politely mauled by the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle, who suggested that applicants tend to wait until the last minute and would do so until the eleventh month of the third year just as much as to the eleventh month of the second year. I was not entirely convinced by that argument, despite the noble Lord's undoubted expertise. It seems to me that if people think they will get any money out of the scheme they will want it as early as possible rather than leaving it to the last possible minute. Nevertheless we withdrew the amendment on that occasion. We are not seeking here to change the fundamental time limit, but we are drawing attention to the point which was effectively brought home by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, when he said that extensions to the time limit should be allowed only in exceptional cases. He described clearly to the Committee the legal definition of "exception" and the limited way in which it is intended to be applied in the law.

I am no lawyer, as I am evidently no human physiologist, but nevertheless I was impressed by the noble and learned Lord's arguments. It seemed to me that, rather than use the word "exceptional", which is what the scheme uses at the moment, there ought to be some way of providing a more ready extension in suitable cases. One of the suitable cases—this matter was supported by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton—is the recognition of injuries which become apparent only when the victim reaches the age of 18 or more. I refer particularly to child abuse and child sexual abuse. I still think that that is not adequately covered in the wording. If we used the phrase, "just and reasonable", which I understand has a legal meaning different from "exceptional", perhaps we might make progress.

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Again this is a probing amendment. If carried, it would put on the face of the Bill matters which could properly come into the scheme and achieve parliamentary control in that way. We look for an indication from the Minister that this is a failing in the scheme as at present drafted and that the Government recognise that failing and are prepared to make attempts to remedy it. I beg to move.

Lord Ackner: My Lords, as far as I can recall there was a fair measure of harmony in regard to this subject because the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle of Bucklow, while adhering to his view that two years was a reasonable period, added to the situation by saying that a proper degree of discretion must be provided to the appropriate authority to extend that period where necessary, and "exceptional circumstances" was generally accepted—I think by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate—to be a restricted phrase which needed looking at again. This is what appears to have occurred here: there is a wide measure of discretion while compromising in accepting the two-year period. I would respectfully suggest to the Chamber that that seems a reasonable approach to have taken.

Lord Carlisle of Bucklow: My Lords, I understand—or I hope—that the Minister will say that the sensible proposals of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, will now find their way into the scheme and the words "just and reasonable" may possibly replace "exceptional circumstances". Having pleaded guilty to stretching the words "exceptional circumstances" quite unreasonably on every occasion that I consider these matters, I suggest that, if it is the intention of the Government, as they have indicated, to change the current scheme in certain ways to meet the proposals in the new scheme as regards structured settlements, they might take the same opportunity to change the words in the current scheme. In that case I shall not have to indulge in such an acrobatic performance every time that I find exceptional circumstances have been met, when clearly, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, said, no such thing has occurred at all.

5 p.m.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am aware from the thoughtful debate that we had on the issue in Committee that many noble Lords are unhappy with the wording in the present draft of the scheme which says that time limits can be waived "in exceptional circumstances". There was a feeling that, although that term was generally interpreted sensibly and liberally under the present arrangements by my noble friend Lord Carlisle—who has just made a confession on the issue—such a liberal interpretation might not always be applied and the term might be considered too restrictive.

We have thought hard about this issue since then, and I can tell the House that we shall be offering an alternative form of words in the next draft of the scheme. The words we envisage being part of the scheme are as follows:

    "A claims officer may waive the time limit where he considers that, by reason of the special circumstances of the case, it is reasonable and in the interests of justice to do so".

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That wording is not too dissimilar to the words offered by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, in his amendment, but perhaps I should explain briefly why we have chosen those rather different words.

First, we believe that there needs to be some reference to the circumstances of the case, which, if not exceptional, ought at least to be different from the ordinary run of cases, and to that extent special. Secondly, it needs to be reasonable for the time limit to be waived, by which we mean, among other things, that there must be some prospect of securing sufficient evidence to support the claim without disproportionate effort or cost on the part of the CICA or anyone else. Thirdly, it must be in the interests of justice that the time limit be waived. We have gone for that phrase rather than the simple word "just" because we have used the phrase elsewhere in the draft scheme.

In the light of that assurance and explanation, I hope that all noble Lords, and in particular the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, my noble friend Lord Carlisle and the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, who proposed the amendment, will accept that we have done our best to address this very real point of concern.

Perhaps I may also take this opportunity to say that, if it had not been for preparing for this stage of the Bill, it is possible that the most recent draft of the scheme would have been available to noble Lords. I promise that the scheme will be seen by noble Lords before Third Reading so that they will have an opportunity not only to see the words on the page but also to see for themselves other parts of the tariff and the scheme.

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