Archive for November 2013
Following a recommendation in the Family Justice Review, the Government announced at the beginning of November 2013 that the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) will transfer to the Ministry of Justice in April 2014.It is currently sponsored by the Department for Education.
Cafcass looks after the interests of children involved in family court cases and helps over 145,000 children and young people who are involved in divorce or separation and care or adoption cases every year. Cafcass is the voice of the children in family courts and helps ensure that children’s welfare is put first during proceedings.
No doubt it is hoped that by bringing the service within MoJ, this will support the wider programme of reform of the family justice system.
Not exactly like the OJ Simpson trial in the US, but a very small next step has been taken in giving the media direct access to proceedings in Court. From 5 October 2013, five courtrooms at the Royal Courts of Justice – which houses the Court of Appeal – have been wired to allow broadcasting to take place.
Cases will not be shown in full. Rather, the broadcasters – BBC, Sky, ITV and Press Association – will be able to film proceedings from only one court room on any given day. They will agree which courtroom and will inform the judiciary the day before.
They will be able to show the footage for the purpose of news reporting only – i.e. not streamed live. All costs associated with filming within the Court of Appeal have been met by the broadcasters involved.
Advocates’ arguments, and the judges’ summing up, decision and (in criminal cases) sentencing remarks may be filmed.
Victims, witnesses and defendants will not be filmed.
In general I welcome this modest development. I do hope that when further decisions about broadcasting proceedings are taken, consideration will be given to alternative procedures, like tribunals or other forms of alternative dispute resolution, which the ordinary citizen is far more likely to encounter in real life.
Further information is at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/landmark-day-for-justice-television-broadcasting-in-courts-goes-live
One poorly understood development in the civil litigation field is that of litigation funding. This refers to the practice of the provision of financial resources to a claimant so that litigation can proceed. Litigation Funding is the arrangement through which a litigant obtains the financing of all or part of its legal costs from a private, commercial Litigation Funder who has no direct interest in the proceedings. In return, and assuming the case is won, the funder will receive an agreed share in the proceeds. If the claim is, however, unsuccessful, the funder will lose its money and nothing will be owed to it by the litigant.
The share in the proceeds is negotiated between the funder and the litigant. This financial reward of the funder can take a variety of forms. It typically consists of either a percentage of the damages recovered, or a multiple of the amount advanced by the funder, or combination of these options. Litigation Funding provides a cost effective financing tool that must be taken into consideration by solicitors when planning the funding of a case. Solicitors will have to bear this in mind when advising on this issue.
The Litigation Funding market in the UK has, in the last decade, experienced increased mainstream attention due to its potential to provide a valuable means for access to justice, particularly for SMEs.
However, Litigation Funding is not a substitute for legal aid. This financing tool is currently limited to commercial cases of a high value. It is not suitable for consumer cases, personal injury cases or generally claims that do not carry a sufficiently high level of damages.
For more information go to http://associationoflitigationfunders.com/
Despite its relative newness, there have been complaints that the current legal services regulatory landscape is too complex and burdensome. These complaints have been raised by stakeholders through a number of routes, including the Cabinet Office’s Red Tape Challenge.To obtain more information about the challenges legal service providers face the Ministry of Justice has decided to conduct a review of the legal services statutory framework.
The review will consider what could be done to simplify the regulatory framework and reduce unnecessary burdens on the legal sector while ensuring there is still appropriate oversight. It will consider the full breadth of the legislative framework, covering at least 10 pieces of primary legislation and over 30 statutory instruments.
The Press Release announcing the review states that the MoJ are also open to comments on the interaction between the legislative framework and the detailed rules and regulations of the approved regulators, licensing authorities and the Legal Services Board and Office for Legal Complaints, although these are not owned by MoJ.
The first stage of the review is a ‘call for evidence’ from stakeholders. The evidence provided to the MoJ will be analysed to identify potential ways in which the framework might be simplified. MoJ are interested in hearing legal service providers’ concerns with, and ideas for reducing, regulatory burdens and simplifying the legal services regulatory framework.
The closing date for the call for evidence was 2 September 2013. There are no indications of what the outcome of this process will be, but developments will be noted in later blogs on this site.