Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

Housing disputes – court or tribunal? Civil Justice council review

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The Civil Justice Council has asked Judge Siobhan McGrath to take another look at the best ways for resolving housing disputes. This will follow up work done some years ago by the Law Commission. The Commission argued that a wider range of issues could go to what was then known as the Residential Tenancies Property Tribunal.

Since then there have been at least two relevant and significant developments. First, disputes relating to disputed tenancy deposits are mostly determined by alternative dispute resolution procedures created by the introduction of Tenancy deposit Protection.

Secondly, in Scotland there are proposals for establishing a specialist housing tribunal. (There is also a specialist Residential Tenancy Board in Ireland).

The outcome of the review is expected early in 2016.

For further information go to

Written by lwtmp

September 29, 2015 at 3:06 pm

Damages based agreements: proposals for reform

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One of the most innovative recommendations from Sir Rupert Jackson’s proposals for the reform of costs of civil litigation was that a new regime of ‘damages based agreements’ (DBAs) should be introduced. Known as Contingency Fees Agreements in other jurisdictions, they – in theory – enable a law firm to take on a case, on the basis that if the case is won, the firm can take a percentage of the damages awarded to cover the costs and fees of bringing the action. The intention was that DBAs would be an alternative to Conditional Fee Arrangements – which have been around for some years now.
Although introduced in 2013, they have not taken off as had been hoped. DBAs were subject to special regulations – the Damages-Based Agreements Regulations 2013, SI 2013/609. These regulations have had a chilling effect which has deterred litigators from using them as Jackson had intended.
The Ministry of Justice has drafted proposals for amending the regulations. It was also agreed that the Civil Justice Council should take a specialist look both at the draft revised regs and wider policy issues.
Its report on both these matters was published at the beginning of September 2015.
It seems likely that a version of the revised draft regulations will be brought into effect later in 2015, which should clear up some of the issues which have worried litigators.
But the wider policy issues seem unlikely to be addressed in the short term. The likely impact on civil litigation practice is thus currently very hard to determine.

For the CJC report see
For a professional commentary on the report see

Written by lwtmp

September 29, 2015 at 2:57 pm

Transforming the legal system – work in progress

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I have recently published a new article on how the English Legal system has changed in the 15 years since the first edition of my book appeared in 2000. I also reflect on the changes that are likely to occur in the near future.
In summary I argue that, in this period, reform to the ELS system has occurred in 2 phases: the first during the Labour administrations led by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown; the second during the Coalition and Conservative administrations led by David Cameron.
In the Phase 1, there was a great deal of institutional change: creation of the Ministry of Justice, creation of the Supreme Court and the reshaping of the tribunals and courts systems.
In Phase 2, the emphasis has been on cutting public expenditure. This has had a notable impact on reductions in the scope and funding of legal aid. Significant increases in the fees charged for taking cases to court have also been imposed.
I note that many lawyers are very unhappy with the effects of public expenditure cuts on the English Legal System. I argue, however, that such cuts could have positive outcomes if those involved in the legal system ask serious questions about whether the current way of doing things is as efficient as it could be.
In particular, I suggest that much could be done by:
• the imaginative use of Information and Communication technologies;
• making a much greater commitment to customer service in the courts and tribunals service;
• challenging the view that the county court should remain as a ‘generalist’ court, and proposing that the civil justice system should comprise more specialist courts;
• possible making the use of ADR compulsory and part of the court system;
• thinking about the judicial function and asking whether all cases need to be dealt with in the same way;
• thinking about new sources of funding for bringing cases, and noting the development of private dispute resolution channels that offer the public free services;
• improving competition in the legal services market;
• promoting public legal education.
I also suggests that more work must be done on increasing equality of opportunity in the legal profession and the judiciary, and developing judicial careers.
I conclude by noting that whether or not these specific developments occur, the world into which those starting their legal studies will enter in a few years’ time is a rapidly changing one, and one in which there will be enormous opportunities for those energy and an interest in innovation.
The full text is available at

Written by lwtmp

September 29, 2015 at 10:03 am

Posted in Chapter 1, Chapter 11

Tagged with

Keeping up to date with legal developments

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Frances Gibb, Legal Correspondent for The Times, has – with Jonathan Ames – just launched a new daily service giving info on developments in the legal system and legal profession.

Interesting piece today by Lord Neuberger on televising court proceedings.

You can sign up, for free, at

Written by lwtmp

September 29, 2015 at 9:56 am

Posted in Chapter 1

Tagged with

Rise in numbers of private prosecution?

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The principal prosecution authority in the English Legal System is the Crown Prosecution Service. Private prosecutions, brought by individuals, have been rare. But two recent news items, reported in the Times Newspaper suggest that we may be witnessing an increase in private prosecutions.
On 2 September 2015 it was reported that some of the families caught up in the terrible refuse lorry accident in Glasgow last year were contemplating bringing criminal proceedings against the driver.
On 3 September 2015, there was an interesting feature also suggesting that private prosecutions might be on the interest, in particular where allegations of serious corporate fraud were involved. The key issue made in the article was that the reason why private prosecutions might be on the increase might be reductions in funding for the CPS which meant that they did not have the resources to take on serious cases.
It is hard to judge from a single newspaper article whether this really is a trend; and it is certainly not possible to say whether the suggested reason – public expenditure cuts – is the principal reason why this is happening. However, the two items – taken together – perhaps lay down a marker that this is an issue which needs to be kept under review.
Although I have argued elsewhere that not all cuts to public expenditure are necessarily harmful, if those cuts are preventing the CPS from doing its job of bringing to court cases that fall within its code of practice, this would seem to extremely worrying and an issue on which there should be proper research.
For the article see:

Written by lwtmp

September 14, 2015 at 3:51 pm

Use of stop and search powers by the police: recent developments

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On 10 October 2014 I wrote about the new Code of Guidance, prepared by the College of Policing on the use of stop and search powers.

The use of the new Code, called Best Use of Stop and Search, went live on 1 December 2014. It is a voluntary  scheme, but one to which all police forces in England and Wales have signed up. It is designed to ensure the police take a more intelligence-led approach to using these powers, and that they are only used when necessary. Adoption of the code is seen as part of a range of measures designed to contribute to a reduction in the overall use of stop and search, lead to better and more intelligence-led stop and searches and more effective outcomes.

Initially only thirty-five forces were fully implementing the Scheme, City of London, Derbyshire, South Yorkshire, Greater Manchester Police, Lincolnshire, South Wales and Dorset police came full on board in April 2015. Key elements of the scheme are that

  • Forces will publish their stop and search outcomes on, This allows members of the public to see how their force is using these powers
  • Forces can now arrange for members of the public to accompany officers on patrol, so they can see how the police use stop and search
  • Where a force receives a large volume of complaints on the use of stop and search, that force will explain to their local community scrutiny group how it is using the powers
  • Forces should reduce the number of stop and searches where there are no reasonable grounds for suspicion.


In August 2015, it was announced that policed forces would be publishing further data on how they use these powers.This means that members of the public can see the number of stop and searches, the outcomes and the proportion of these outcomes that were linked to the purpose of the search in any given police area. The data also provide a breakdown of the ethnicity and age of people stopped and searched and the time of day stops are carried out on a monthly basis.

Currently 25 forces also publish their stop and search data on the crime maps on this site. This allows residents in these areas to see where stop and searches take place, and view details about the stop and search including the reason and outcome.


The data are available at

At present the data is presented in a rather raw spreadsheet format. A more narrative account would make for easier reading of the data.

Written by lwtmp

August 8, 2015 at 11:44 am

2014 in review

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The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here's an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,800 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Written by lwtmp

August 8, 2015 at 11:18 am

Posted in Uncategorized


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