At the start of 2016, this very short post seeks to draw out and compare the critical civil legal issues currently under debate in the jurisdictions in which we and our customers operate. At a high level, the aims and themes appear noticeably similar: to ensure access to justice and to reform and modernise the procedures and costs associated with making claims.
One noticeable point of contrast is that whereas a good deal of activity and reform in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland is either judicially-led or follows a report by a senior judge, the changes under discussion in the Irish Republic are much more clearly in the form of political initiatives.
It is certain that we will revisit all of these issues in detail over the course of 2016 as the projects and proposals evolve further. Among the first developments are likely to be either formal consultation in England & Wales on the small claims limit or publication, by Lord Justice Briggs, of his interim report on the structure of the civil courts.
- England & Wales. The structure and funding of the civil courts, as influenced by Lord Justice Briggs’s review, the increase in the small claims track limit for injury cases and overall process modernisation, driven by the £700m allocated for digitisation and court reform.
- Scotland. The bedding-in of the jurisdictional reforms introduced in September 2015 and further moves to implement expenses/costs reforms as recommended by the Taylor review some years ago.
- Ireland. Something close to tort reform is underway, in the first instance in medical negligence and serious injury claims. The Justice Department will bring forward legislation to allow for periodical payments and it is seeking to introduce pre-action protocols. In addition, legal costs reforms are very likely to be associated with these measures.
- Northern Ireland. Options for the future funding of civil claims are being actively considered, following the recommendations of The Access to Justice II review in late 2015 and as part of Lord Justice Gillen’s ongoing review of civil and family justice.
About the Author
Alistair Kinley is BLM’s Director of Policy & Government Affairs.
Alistair is responsible for BLM’s engagement with government departments and regulators on policy and public affairs issues and consultations affecting the firm and its customers. He coordinated BLM’s market-facing activities in connection with the Insurance Act 2015 and the consultations which preceded its publication and introduction in Parliament.
He is a member of the Civil Justice Council (CJC), a regular speaker and experienced commentator on legal and procedural reforms and was a contributing editor to the Law Society’s Litigation Funding Handbook (September 2014).