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The Briggs Review – important changes proposed for conduct of litigation in the civil courts

On 12 January 2016, Lord Justice Briggs published his interim report which sets out a numberof provisional recommendations for the reform of the civil courts. Briggs LJ is now in the process of having meetings with those practitioners and other interested parties most likely to be affected, the first of which took place in Sheffield on Monday 14 March 2016. The proposals, upon which consultation is being undertaken, include:

Online Court: the provisional view is that an online court for claims up to £25,000 be created. There will be three stages: 1) an online process for identification ofthe issues and provision of documentary evidence; 2) consiliation and case management by case officers; 3) resolution by judges, using documents on screen, telephone, video or face to face meetings to meet the needs of each case.

Issues (upon which views are being sought) include: should the limit be £25,000; how much and what type of assistance should be provided; and how much if at all should one side’s costs be paid by the other side.

Briggs LJ has made clear that he is aware of that many vulnerable and elderly people will require supprot and assistance in conducting claims on line and that this is something that will receive particular consideration.

An article by Briggs LJ is to appear in the next edition of Counsel magazine which considers the issue of costs in the Online Court.

Increased use of Case Officers: it is proposed that some of judges’ more routine and non-cotentious work be transferred to Case Officers, supervised by judges.

Move to a unified civil court

Regionalisation of civil work: it is proposed that all civil work with a regional connection should be tried in the regions, regardless of value, subject to very limited specialist exceptions such as Patents. No case will be deemed to be too big to be dealt with in the regions. It is also proposed that there should be a stronger concentration of civil expertise among the Circuit Judges and District Judges, which is to be welcomed if all civil work is to be dealt with regionally. It is understood that a new QB listing initiative on the North Eastern circuit is to be published shortly.

Rights and Routes of Appeal: consideration is to be given to the  raising of the threshold for permission to appeal and the right right to renew the refusal of an application to appeal orally is to be reviewed.

Enforcement: The current difficulties that are often experienced in enforcing judgments and orders are acknowledged by Briggs LJ. The interim report suggests that enforcement of judgments might become a unified service for all the civil courts and that the process be further streamlined and simplified.

Employment and EAT: it is suggested that these be integrated into the structure of the civil courts.