Has the Guardian newspaper gone mad? Well, obviously yes, but nothing new there. Rather, what incoherent drivel is their latest poll?
The headline reads:
“Should no-win, no-fee be banned?”
It then continues:
“The legal aid bill proposes altering conditional fee agreements so that successful claimants will have to pay their own lawyers’ fees. Lord Prescott says this will affect vulnerable individuals. Do you agree?”
The first sentence of this is obviously entirely different to the headline. No ban is proposed. Those with any understanding of the proposed changes know that the sentence: “The legal aid bill proposes altering conditional fee agreements so that successful claimants will have to pay their own lawyers’ fees” is inaccurate. Firstly, it proposes only that successful claimants should pay an element of their solicitors’ fees (the success fee). In any event, since when did the current law make CFA Lites compulsory? Solicitors have always been able to make their claimant clients pay something towards their fees. This is the solicitor/own client element.
And what does this mean: “Do you agree?”. There may be a number of propositions one might be prepared signing up to, but one that says you agree with Lord Prescott is unlikely to be one of them.
And then we get the actual question, which is totally different again: “Should CFAs be reformed?” Entirely different to what has gone before.
The two answers available are:
“Yes – they limit freedom of expression by making fighting libel cases inhibitingly expensive for newspapers”
“No – they allow individuals fighting multinationals access to the courts”
That’s totally different again. You might agree or disagree with the proposal that CFAs should be “reformed” but not necessarily for the reasons given in the answers.
The Electoral Commission would have an aneurysm.
None of this nonsense has stopped the Access to Justice Group promoting this poll or APIL excitedly tweeting: “No-win no-fee should NOT be reformed according to 94.4% (currently) in the @guardian poll bit.ly/wo7rGh”.
Given those who vote are therefore likely to be either members of the public who know nothing about the current law or the proposed changes, and will be none the wiser after reading the incoherent preamble to the question, or claimant lawyers furiously clicking away at the “No” button, I’m sure the Government will give the result of this poll the weight it deserves.