Mr Justice Stephens recently pondered alternatives to the customary investment of Minor damages in a Minor personal injury case brought by this firm, Lacey Solicitors. It is understood that this is the first time the Court has considered an alternative to the conventional mechanism in place whereby compensation is paid to the Accountant General and managed by the Court Funds Office. Mr Justice Stephens was minded, if possible, to invest the sum approved into a Child Specific ISA or some other similar type product that would provide maximum security and interest for the Minor’s damages until reaching the age of majority.
The Minor’s legal representatives were asked to assist the Court in assessing whether such a step would be permissible under the current Statutory arrangements and Court powers. Having considered the relevant legislation and the Court of Appeal decision and Judgement of McCloskey J, the Judge at first instance in the case of The Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service –v- The Official Solicitor to the Court of Judicature in Northern Ireland, it would appear that the Court has the power to direct that the monies are invested as they see fit.
In this particular case, on balance, taking in to account the circumstances of this particular Minor Plaintiff, it was found that there would be no benefit in diverging from the Court Funds investment route. As this would appear to be the first time the Court considered alternative routes, some guidance for practitioners will be set out in a publication which will be available on the NI Courts Service website in due course.