In December 2009 Lord Justice Jackson set out a series of recommendations – “a coherent package of interlocking reforms, designed to control costs and promote access to justice” – which resulted in the most significant changes to the civil litigation process in a generation. His ideas were largely implemented wholesale in April 2013.
Nearly five years after his proposals took effect he has considered the impact of this first wave of reform and now makes further recommendations which build on them and complete what he calls “the unfinished business” of costs reform. In a second report, published at the end of July 2017, he recommends:
- extending fixed recoverable costs to all fast track claims (ie cases valued at up to £25,000), and
- introducing a new “intermediate track” for claims valued under £100,000 (subject to a small number of exceptions by case type) which would be subject to its own regime of fixed recoverable costs.
“At the heart of both reviews has been the same objective of promoting access to justice. Controlling litigation costs (while ensuring proper remuneration for lawyers) is a vital part of promoting access to justice. If the costs of justice are too high, people cannot afford lawyers. If the costs are too low, there will not be any lawyers doing the work.”
Implementation of Jackson’s new proposals will coincide with a Government review of the 2013 civil justice reforms (i.e. the first wave of ‘Jackson’ in April 2013, combined with the introduction of fixed recoverable costs in mainstream personal injury ‘portal’ claims in July 2013) which is expected in the coming months, i.e. around the five year anniversary of the first wave of Jackson reforms.
In addition, significant changes to civil process have been recommended by Lord Justice Briggs. His core proposal, that civil disputes in the twenty-first century should be resolved on line, has already been accepted by government. The so-called “Online Solutions Court” (at present for limited numbers of lower value claims) is now being set up and the project – along with greater on line access in criminal cases – is backed by significant government funding of around £700m.
So civil justice is changing. The latest Jackson reforms and the Briggs proposals are both responses to a need to deliver civil justice efficiently to a society that has and will become ever more digitalised. The legal professions will need to respond and the services they provide will adjust and vary.
BLM will consider those changes, the short term impact, the foreseeable risks and consider the behavioural changes of consumers, professionals and other stakeholders in the civil litigation process that will arise as a consequence.