‘SHAMBOLIC” is how the leaders of two ACT legal groups are describing the “mounting failings” of the ACT government’s pilot citizens’ jury on the Compulsory Third Party (CTP) insurance scheme.“It is of great concern that such a serious matter as CTP insurance coverage is being dealt with in such an ad hoc and disjointed manner,” say Law Society president Sarah Avery and Bar Association president Ken Archer.
“This is an issue that has the potential to directly impact every single Canberran and the process so far is, simply put, shambolic.”
The pair were commenting on the finalising of the jury after 6000 random invitations to participate were sent to homes in the ACT, with an expected response of more than 400 from which 50 jurors would be selected.
“In fact, only 76 responses were received, leaving the jury facilitators to scurry through a second unidentified recruitment process to increase the pool of jurors,” say the lawyers.
“It was only after this second round that the target of 50 jury members were selected. The difficulty in attracting community members to be part of the jury has meant the demographic profile of the jury differs from the statistical profile of the ACT. This means that the ‘citizens’ jury’ is not representative of ACT citizens.
“The process continues to labour under unnecessarily rushed deadlines. The jury is due to meet for the first time next weekend and yet it appears that the timing, scheduling and identity of witnesses is yet to be determined.
“We have little confidence that the material to be presented to the jury will be fair, balanced or even relevant. The number and identity of witnesses who will be permitted to present their views to the jury has been severely limited. Those people most affected by the scheme – namely, innocent people injured as the result of motor vehicle accidents in the ACT –,are increasingly being sidelined. Instead, the jury will directly hear from a plethora of ACT government officials, academics, and representatives from the NSW State Insurance Regulatory Authority.
“This issue affects the ability of injured people and their families to conduct their daily lives with dignity and a degree of financial security. We are alarmed that the government is using a matter of such importance as a test case to see if citizens’ juries will work in the ACT.
“Over 600 people were injured as a result of vehicle crashes in the ACT last year. If this flawed process results in the trade off of certain compensation entitlements, the primary purpose of CTP insurance – that is, to make good an injury caused by the fault of another – will be completely negated.
“Reducing compensation means that people injured in motor vehicle accidents through no fault of their own will be forced to rely on savings, their extended family, social security, and the public health system for their ongoing care and support. This experience has been clearly shown in other jurisdictions.”