The Association of Consumer Support Organisations (ACSO) has responded to the Northern Irish Department of Justice consultation on the court approval of minor settlements.
Cara Elliott, policy and public affairs advisor at ACSO, said that judge approval "should be made mandatory so that the child's right to compensation is protected in law until such times as they need to access those funds.
"At present, the law does not protect the settlement rights of children in all cases and allows for insurance companies to decide the sum and directly advise the injured child's parents or guardians. Very often, sums offered will be accepted without obtaining court approval and without seeking legal advice. While there is a voluntary procedure in place whereby the injured party can seek court approval of the decided sum, it is subject to the law of contract and generally not binding on the child. A change in legislation, however, would better protect children and ensure they get the compensation they are entitled to."
Elliott also highlights that "the most effective way for a duty to obtain court approval to be enforced would be through a change to current legislation. This could, for example, require a compensator to obtain the approval of the court for a proposed settlement, with failure to do so meaning the payment is regarded as not having been made. The legislation should also apply to all settlements regardless of the value and age of the child."
To conclude, it is vital that the government legislate in order to ensure the fair and just compensation of children.
ACSO members can download the full submission from the members' area of the website.