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One of the bar’s top personal injury barristers has effectively been barred from sitting as a part-time judge because of a perceived claimant bias identified through articles he wrote for The Lawyer.
Bill Braithwaite QC, head of Exchange Chambers and a brain and spine injuries claims specialist, has not sat as a Recorder since the Court of Appeal ruled that he had an “appearance of bias” in favour of claimants.
In the case that gave rise to the situation, the defendant’s insurers appealed Braithwaite’s ruling, in which he awarded the claimant damages of £220,000. The insurers argued that Braithwaite was claimant-biased on the basis of several articles he had written in The Lawyer.
The Court of Appeal, having upheld the insurers’ claim, ordered a retrial, in which, ironically, the claimant was awarded even higher damages.
Braithwaite said: “If I had continued to sit as a Recorder, any party in a case would be entitled to say justifiably that I’d be biased.
“What I found ironic is that I believe in justice and don’t believe in claimants’ rights come what may.”
However, he added: “They were shutting out a highly specialist practitioner from judging, whereas they happily allow people to sit as judges who’ve spent their whole lives defending cases and accusing people of dishonesty. The difference is that I write.”