Costs News

21 January 2016
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Justice is “unaffordable to most”, says LCJ

The Lord Chief Justice made headlines last week after he declared that “our system of justice has become unaffordable to most” and called once more on the government to introduce fixed fees across the fast-track and ‘lower end’ of the multi-track.

In his annual report, Lord Thomas said that the lack of affordability – and the resulting “considerable increase of litigants in person for whom our current court system is not really designed” – was one of the key arguments made in favour of the investment in the courts system that was ultimately announced by Chancellor George Osborne in November’s Autumn Statement.

The report said that “control over the costs of civil litigation continued to be of the greatest importance” during 2015.

It said: “The Jackson review reforms have now bedded down. It appears that there is an improvement in costs management by judges and in costs behaviour by parties. There was sustained emphasis on the need for proportionality between the costs of a case in relation to the value of the claim.

“However, costs issues continued to be the subject of dispute between parties and to generate litigation in their own right. The judiciary has constantly pressed for the widespread adoption of fixed recoverable costs. This was one of the core recommendations in theJacksonreview’s final report, but its application has thus far been restricted to a small number of areas of litigation (such as road traffic accidents).

“The judiciary strongly supports the application of fixed recoverable costs across the range of fast-track cases and in the lower reaches of the multi-track. This would help to ensure that litigation costs are reasonable, proportionate and that all parties can proceed with greater certainty.

“The judiciary hopes that the government will give this proposal favourable consideration.”

On court fees, Lord Thomas said that the judiciary, “while accepting the decisions by Parliament to increase fees, remains deeply concerned about the effect on access to justice”.


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