Briggs review: final report due in July 2016
As we have previously discussed (here), Lord Justice Briggs is currently carrying out a wide-ranging review into the structure of the civil courts system in England and Wales. His final report is due in July 2016. If it follows the recommendations set out in his interim report, published in January 2016, the report is likely to recommend a number of major changes to the civil courts system, along the following (sometimes overlapping) themes:
- increasing access to justice, and in particular supporting the increasing numbers of litigants in person using the courts system;
- modernising the court system, including a greater use of technology to support the work of courts;
- improving efficiencies within the court system, including through the re-allocation of work and introducing a new role of court “case officers”.
The standout proposal in Briggs LJ’s interim report was the creation of a new online court, which would be based on a three tier approach: interactive ‘triage’; conciliation and case management; and (if the dispute has not been settled) determination of the dispute. The new online court would be designed to be accessible to unrepresented parties, governed by a simplified set of procedural rules, with potentially no cost recovery for successful parties.
A number of bodies have responded to the interim report, including the Civil Justice Council (CJC), the Bar Council and the Law Society. Most responses have been broadly supportive of the need for reforms, and of the principle of an online court. The CJC proposed some ‘refinements’ to the proposals set out in the interim report, such as a phased introduction of the online court, which could then ultimately be integrated with the rest of the court system to produce “an integrated online and physical court service of the future.”
The Bar Council, however, raised concerns that the online court could give rise to a “two-tier justice system”, with the lack of cost recovery or funding for legal advice leaving many without legal assistance. The Bar Council suggested that “[b]efore deciding that we need something entirely new and distinct we should look to work with the system we already have.”
These responses are part of an extensive consultation exercise by Briggs LJ and his team following publication of his interim report. It remains to be seen what impact that consultation will have had when the final report is published. What is clear is that significant changes can be expected to the civil courts service over the next few years.
Singapore to sign up to the Hague Convention
On 4 April 2016, the Singapore government introduced a bill into parliament to implement the Hague Convention on Choice of Courts Agreements 2005. If the Bill is passed and the Hague Convention ratified, Singapore would join the EU Member States (except Denmark) and Mexico as being bound by (and able to enjoy) rights of mutual enforcement of judgments and respect for exclusive jurisdiction clauses.
If other states follow the lead of the EU, Mexico and Singapore, the Hague Convention could have a major impact on cross-border enforcement of judgments, as the New York Convention has done for the enforcement of arbitral awards. However, the US is the only other state that has signed the Hague Convention to date, and there is no indication that the US is about to ratify the Convention in the near future.
For more information on the Hague Convention see our previous article here.
Court fees: no further increases planned following most recent changes
We have previously discussed increases in court fees that were made in 2016. These have been followed in the last two months by two further rounds of (mostly minor) increases:
On 18 March 2016 a number of increases in civil court fees came into effect, including the following:
- the fee for general applications made by consent or without notice has increased from £50 to £100;
- the fee for general applications made on notice has increased from £155 to £255;
- the fee for starting proceedings in the County Court for recovery of land increased from £280 to £355; and
- the fee for starting proceedings for recovery of land Using Possession Claims Online increased from £250 to £325.
On 18 April 2016 fees for civil appeals in the Court of Appeal increased, including the following:
- the fee for applying for permission to appeal has increased from £235 to £528;
- the fee payable on filing an appeal notice (where permission has been granted or is not required) has increased from £465 to £1,199;
- the fee payable on filing an appeal questionnaire has increased from £465 to £1,199;
- the fee payable on filing a respondent’s notice has increased from £235 to £528.
No further increases are planned in the near future and there are no plans to increase the cap on issue fees for money claims, which will remain at £10,000.