Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Civil Courts Structure Review (CCSR)

The interim report by Lord Justice Briggs on the civil courts has been published today - Civil Courts Structure Review: Interim Report.   The report seems likely to have very far-reaching implications.  Comments are invited in writing by the end of February 2016; ahead of further consultation on, and consideration of, issues ahead of preparing the final Review report by the end of July 2016.

Perhaps the most far-reaching recommendation in the Interim report is that relating to the creation of an ONLINE COURT.   The report comments that: 

"The development of the Online Court (OC) is the single most radical and important structural change with which this report is concerned.  It provides the opportunity to use modern IT to create for the first time a court which will enable civil disputes of modest value and complexity to be justly resolved without the incurring of disproportionate costs of legal representation.  In my view it offers the best available prospect of providing access to justice for people and small businesses of ordinary financial resource."

There are many who have advocated the Unification of the Civil Courts below the level of the Court of appeal.  Those courts are currently the High Court, County Court and the Family Court.  This was rejected (in relation to the court structure then in place) by Sir Henry Brooke in his 2008 report.   The Interim CCSR report considers (briefly) the arguments for and against such unification in the light of the present court structure.  The provisional conclusion is reach that a case has not been made out for unification but more detailed study is required to improve allocation of workload between the existing courts.

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