Birmingham to pilot radical reforms to civil litigation system

Birmingham has been chosen to act as a blueprint for radical reforms to the civil justice system.

Cost rules for high-value complex commercial cases have come under the spotlight and could be amended following a wide-ranging review of civil litigation costs by one of the country’s most senior judges.

The reforms, which have been drawn up by Lord Justice Jackson and published in a 652-page report, are intended to make litigation more accessible by making it cheaper and faster, while at the same time promoting access to justice at a proportionate cost.

Birmingham will be the first city in the UK to trial Lord Justice Jackson’s civil litigation cost recommendations as part of a pilot scheme, which will run from 1 June to 30 September 2009 in the Birmingham Technology and Construction Court (TCC) and Mercantile Court. 

The objective of the scheme is to control the litigation in such a manner that the costs of each party are proportionate to the amount at stake and to ensure that the parties are on an equal footing.

Lord Justice Jackson was in Birmingham to address an audience of lawyers, users and senior circuit judges from the TCC and Mercantile Court at an event hosted by law firm Mills & Reeve, where he discussed the main proposals in his report.

Lord Justice Jackson visits Birmingham

(L-R) Lord Justice Jackson, His Honour Judge David Grant, Her Honour Judge Frances Kirkham, His Honour Judge Simon Brown QC and Martino Giaquinto, Partner at Mills & Reeve.

Among his recommendations, which span a range of cost and procedural issues across personal and commercial litigation, are greater use of fixed costs, sanctions, including wasted costs order, in respect of unfocused witness statements, deferring the “pre-action” protocol period so it is carried out after the issue of the claim form, presumption that expert evidence on quantum be given by a single joint expert, a conditional legal aid fund (CLAF), a crackdown on referral fees and changes to the cost-shifting rule.

Martino Giaquinto, partner at Mills & Reeve, who organised the event, said: “Lord Justice Jackson’s preliminary report has been widely welcomed in the legal community as it addresses a range of issues relating to the civil litigation system, which ultimately will make it better for those who use it.

“The fact that Birmingham could be the first city to implement the changes is a feather in its cap. Birmingham is a highly respected legal centre due to the quality of  judges and lawyers that we have here, which is one of the reasons why the city has been identified and chosen to run the pilot scheme and therefore act as a blueprint for the rest of the country.”

Lord Justice Jackson’s review is in its second consultation phase. A final report will be presented to the government by the end of the year.

  —ends—

 

For further information contact;

Matt Taylor/Dawn Roberts, Headline Communications     Tel: 0121 643 4600 matt@hline.co.uk/dawn@hline.co.uk

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