Reform of the civil courts – interim report released today (12 January 2016)

The Briggs review, which focuses on civil court structures in England & Wales, enters a new and critical phase today, with the publication of the interim report (IR). A good deal of the IR examines key questions associated with the setting up of an Online Court to enable disputes of under £25,000 to be progressed by citizens, without necessarily resorting to formal legal representation. Some firm views about the Online Court emerge from the IR and are set out in the body of this post.

A provisional view is put forward that personal injury claims would be excluded from the Online Court. This seems very likely indeed to be a point on which further representations will be made in the next phases of this project.

Written responses to the provisional recommendations in the interim report are sought by the end of February 2016. Stakeholder meetings will run from March to May, with the final report due before the summer break this year. Continue reading

State of the nations

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. Continue reading

Court & procedural reform to gather momentum in 2016 – and definitely not just for small claims

paperwork handover

The noise associated with the Government’s proposal to increase the small claims limit for injury cases to £5,000 may have drowned out another equally important announcement in the Autumn Statement: that some £700 million has been allocated to the MoJ to bring the court service up to date. A short summary was posted on The Policy Blog at the end of November.

This initiative is absolutely not about securing more IT spend so that courts can do more of the things they do now but more efficiently, nor is it just about arranging more video-conferences and attendances. It is a quite fundamental rethink of accessing the courts digitally, how they are structured and how cases and evidence are managed.

Continue reading