Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

Archive for the ‘Chapter 8’ Category

Business and Property Courts

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The creation of the Business and Property Courts was noted here in April. From 4 July 2017 a series of events is being held in court centres around the country to launch the new Courts. The Courts will become operational from 2 October 2017.

The existing courts being brought together under the single umbrella are:

  •  The Admiralty Court.
  •  The Business List
  • The Commercial Court (covering all its existing subject areas of banking and finance, shipping and insurance, trade and energy, and international arbitration, as well as the Circuit Commercial Courts, formerly Mercantile Courts.)
  • The Competition List.
  • The Financial List (covering banking and financial markets).
  • The Insolvency and Companies Court.
  • The Intellectual Property List (Including the Patents Court and the Intellectual Property and Enterprise Court, the “IPEC”).
  • The Property Trust and Probate List.
  • The Revenue List.
  • The Technology and Construction Court (covering all its traditional areas of major technology and construction cases).

For further details see https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/announcements/launch-of-business-and-property-courts/

Written by lwtmp

July 8, 2017 at 3:45 pm

Prisons and Courts Bill 2017: new version awaited

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One of the casualties of the calling of the General Election in June 2017 was that the Prison and Courts Bill 2017 was lost – i.e. failed to complete its Parliamentary process.

I have noted in earlier blogs the key features of this important legislation, both in relation to the reform of the Prison Service and to the Civil Justice system. It also planned to deal with rules relating to whiplash injuries (see entries in Spotlight on the Justice System 8 March 2017.)

It is clear from announcements in the Queen’s speech – delivered in June 2017 – that the Bill will be introduced, not necessarily in the same form but with the same policy objectives in mind.

For the moment, therefore, plans are on hold (though civil servants are actively working on the assumption that eventually they will get the new legal powers they need to introduce the proposed reforms.)

I will give further details when the new Bill is published.

Changing the small claims track

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In November 2015, the Government announced that it planned to increase the small claims limit for personal injuries to £5000. Following a consultation on making reforms to soft tissue injury claims (often referred to as whiplash injury) the Government has now (March 2017) decided that while Road Traffic Accident claims for less than £5000 should stay in the small claims track, the small claims limit for other personal injury claims should become £2000. It plans that these new limits should be in effect by October 2018.

The Government is also intending to ban the settlement of whiplash claims unless  medical evidence  is provided of the alleged injury.

For details see https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/593431/part-1-response-to-reforming-soft-tissue-injury-claims.pdf

Written by lwtmp

March 29, 2017 at 3:14 pm

What’s in a name? ‘Business and Property Courts’

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From June 2017, ‘The Business and Property Courts’ will be the new name for England and Wales’ international dispute resolution jurisdictions and will act as a single umbrella for business specialist courts across England and Wales.

This is rather more than a simple re-branding. The main objective of the new arrangements is that it will enable appropriately qualified judges to be deployed more flexibly so that their expertise can be used in whatever forum it is needed.

Business and Property Courts brings under a single umbrella the following existing courts and lists:

  • The Commercial Court (covering all its existing subject areas of shipping, sale of goods, insurance and reinsurance etc.)
  • The Admiralty Court.
  • The Mercantile Court.
  • The Technology and Construction Court (covering all its traditional areas of major technology and construction cases).
  • The Financial List (covering banking and financial markets).
  • The Companies and Insolvency Court.
  • The Patents Court.
  • The Intellectual Property and Enterprise Court (the “IPEC”).
  • The Competition List.

Other courts and lists will be added in future to include the existing business and property cases in the Chancery Division.

There will also be Business and Property Courts in Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Bristol and in Cardiff, with expansions to Newcastle and Liverpool likely in the future.

Although the framework will be new, existing  practices and procedures will be retained, at least for the time being.

The details are in https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/announcements/business-and-property-courts-media-release/

Written by lwtmp

March 29, 2017 at 12:26 pm

Compensation culture: cutting down ‘whiplash’ claims

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Those who argue that a compensation culture has developed in our society – with too many people willing to seek compensation for things that have happened to them – often point to the numbers of claims made for soft tissue injuries occurring in road traffic accidents (RTAs), commonly referred to as ‘whiplash claims’

In 2015, the Government announced that it wanted to reduce the incentives on people bringing whiplash claims. It has now published a consultation paper setting out its ideas in more detail.

The package includes measures to tackle the high numbers of minor RTA related soft tissue injury claims by either:

 (a) i.removing compensation for pain, suffering and loss of amenity (PSLA) following an accident or
ii. reducing compensation for PSLA by setting a fixed amount payable (£400 or
£425 if there is a psychological element) for these types of claim.
(b) reducing compensation for PSLA for other RTA related soft tissue injury claims
where recovery takes longer than for those covered by measure (a) above through
the introduction of a set tariff of compensation;
(c) raise the small claims limit for all personal injury claims to £5,000 (by reference to
the value of the PSLA element of the claim). This would have the effect that the
legal costs of such claims would no longer be recoverable from defendants in the
majority of soft tissue injury claims, although certain costs arising from litigation
(for example the costs of issuing the claim) and a number of disbursements (for
example the cost of the medical report) could still be claimed by a successful
claimant; and
(d) ban pre-medical offers to settle RTA related soft tissue injury claims, so in future
claims could not be settled without medical evidence provided by MedCo accredited practitioners.

 

Measures (a), (b) and (d) will require primary legislation and the government intends to legislate as soon as parliamentary time allows.Measure (c) requires changes to the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR). There will also need to be amendments to relevant Pre-Action Protocols including the Pre-Action Protocol for Low Value Personal Injury Claims in Road Traffic Accidents.

It is argued that these changes could reduce the cost of insurance claims by around £1bn annually.

The Consultation will provoke strong views, and are likely to be fiercely resisted, particularly by those who represent claimants. If implemented, the reforms could also have significant impact on Claims Management Companies.

The outcome of the consultation is not yet clear, nor, importantly is it clear when time for the required legislation could be found. But it is an issue that is unlikely to go away, even if implementation is still some time off.

The Consultation can be found at https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/reforming-soft-tissue-injury-claims/

 

Written by lwtmp

November 23, 2016 at 11:02 am

Transforming the English Legal System: Civil Justice

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The Consultation Paper Transforming our Justice System sets out proposals for reform of the civil justice system that build on work undertaken earlier in 2016 by the Civil Justice Council, JUSTICE and Lord Justice Briggs – all of which have been noted in this blog.
The principal features of what is now proposed are:

 

i. Introducing a new online process for resolving claims: In line with plans across all jurisdictions, we will move more cases away from physical court rooms. Building on Lord Justice Briggs’ proposals in his Civil Court Structures Review we will create a new process to resolve many disputes entirely online, using innovative technology and specialist case officers to progress routine cases through the system and reserving judicial time for the most complex cases. We will create a new, streamlined Rules Committee to design this new system and keep the processes simple. When hearings are required, they may be held over thetelephone or video conference, focusing court resources on the most complex and difficult cases. This will mean that cases should reach a quicker resolution.

ii. Encouraging parties to resolve disputes themselves where possible: We will
increase signposting to mediation and alternative dispute resolution services to
help people avoid court for minor disputes that would be better handled privately,
without needing the court to intervene.
iii. Extending the fixed recoverable costs regime: Fixed recoverable costs are legal
costs which can be recovered from the losing side by the successful party to a
claim, at a prescribed rate. (For civil claims, these are set out in the Civil
Procedure Rules). We will build on measures introduced in the last Parliament for
low value personal injury claims, to limit the level of legal costs recoverable.
These measures provide transparency and certainty for all parties and are
designed to ensure that the amount of legal work done is proportionate to the
value of the claim. We are keen to extend the fixed recoverable costs regime to
as many civil cases as possible. The senior judiciary will be developing proposals
on which we will then consult.
iv. Civil enforcement: We will give the [county court] powers to issue attachment of
earnings orders to the High Court to create a simpler, more consistent approach
to enforcement, and make sure more people can get the money they are owed.
We will also commence the fixed deductions scheme (fixed table) provisions in
the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 in the County Court and
introduce fixed tables in the High Court, providing transparency and certainty of
the rate of deductions from debtors’ earnings to pay back their creditors.
v. Replacing statutory declarations in county court proceedings with a witness
statement verified by a statement of truth: We will replace outdated and currently
inconsistent procedures, which are inconvenient for people to use and resource
intensive to administer, with a more modern digital approach but keeping strong
penalties where a statement of truth is found to be false.

See chapter 3 in https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/transforming-our-courts-and-tribunals/supporting_documents/consultationpaper.pdf

Transforming the English Legal System

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September 2016 saw the publication of an extremely important Consultation Paper, which sets out ideas on how the courts and tribunals system in England and Wales should be reformed.

Its proposals are based on three principles, that the reformed system should be proportionate, accessible and just.

The Paper states:

To deliver a system that is proportionate and tailored for the complexity and
seriousness of individual cases, [the Government is] taking a consistent approach across jurisdictions [i.e., criminal, administrative, family and civil], including:
i. More use of case officers for routine tasks: Judges spend too much of their time
dealing with uncontroversial, routine or straightforward matters which could just as
effectively be dealt with by court staff under judicial authorisation. Where it is
appropriate, specially trained staff will be able to carry out some of this work to
help justice move faster.
ii. More decisions made “on the papers”: Where a case is relatively straightforward or
routine, representations will be made online in writing for a judge to consider
outside of a traditional court room, without the need for a physical hearing,
meaning a more convenient experience for everyone involved.
iii. More virtual hearings: Where a judge needs to listen to the parties make their
arguments, it will be possible in many cases to hold the hearings over telephone or
video conference, without the need for the parties to travel to a court building.
There will still be an important place for physical court hearings for criminal trials
and other serious or complex cases, but where they are appropriate, virtual
hearings offer an easy and convenient alternative for everybody.
iv. More cases resolved out of court: In appropriate cases, we will encourage parties
to settle their disputes themselves, without the intervention of the courts.
The Government wants to make legal processes more accessible and easier for to use, with many  services moving online – for example:
i. Putting probate applications online: Dealing with probate affairs can be difficult and
complicated at a time when people are often coping with bereavement. We are
digitising the probate system to allow the entire process to be managed online,
from application to resolution, making it an easier and faster process when cases
are uncontested.
ii. Managing divorce online: Work has already begun to allow divorce applications to
be made and managed online, removing some of the bureaucracy from often
stressful and lengthy proceedings and simplifying cumbersome administrative
processes.
iii. Digitising applications for Lasting Powers of Attorney: Allowing people to make
arrangements for a time in the future when they may not be able to make
decisions by themselves is a helpful but often emotionally stressful process.
Applications have been partially digitised since 2014, resulting in fewer application
forms being returned because of errors. We will build on this by making the system
fully digital to deliver a quicker service.
Across the board, the Government wants to simplify forms and make processes more
straightforward so they are easier for everyone to understand. Many of these changes are designed to bring the justice system up to date for the modern world and take advantage of advances in technology to provide a faster,more accessible service for users of the courts and tribunals.
It is important, however, any unintended effects of this technology are taken into account to make sure that the system remains just. Thus the Government intends to:
i. Provide a system that works for everyone: Digital and online processes are easy
and efficient for many people, but the justice system must also work for people
who do not or cannot access services online. We must provide an alternative route
of access for every service that moves online. ..
ii. Continue to ensure open justice: It is a core principle of our justice system that
justice is open. “It is not merely of some importance, but of fundamental
importance that justice should not only be done, but should be manifestly and
undoubtedly seen to be done,” as Lord Chief Justice Hewart said in 1924. The
principle of open justice will be upheld and the public will still be able to see and
hear real-time hearings, whilst we continue to protect the privacy of the vulnerable.
Most of these changes build on initiatives that are already underway. What is important about this new Consultation Paper is that it is being jointly promoted by the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chief Justice and the Senior President of Tribunals.
I set out in separate blog items the sections of the Paper on each of the different parts of the justice system.
The paper is not open for consultation for long. To read the paper and find the questions to which the government is seeking answers go to https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/transforming-our-courts-and-tribunals

Written by lwtmp

October 5, 2016 at 9:31 am