Chaos as MoJ scuppers litigation reform

Judges and politicians at loggerheads as Jackson review kicked into the long grass

The judiciary is on a collision course with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) over how the litigation ­system should be reformed in England and Wales.

Serious concerns have been raised about political interference with a range of litigation reforms after the MoJ quietly wrote to ­personal injury (PI) practitioners informing them of a decision to put process reform on hold until April.

News of the decision to delay reforms arrived just hours before the Civil ­Justice Council was due to hold a mediation with claimant and defendant lawyers to discuss how PI rules should be formulated and implemented in October, as originally intended.

“They [the MoJ] said PI process reform was on hold until [Lord Justice] Jackson publishes his report,” one insider said. “Then they said the letter had been sent by mistake, which we know not to be true. Chaos is reigning.”

Jackson LJ is due to ­publish a consultation paper this Friday (8 May) ­outlining a series of options for fundamental reform of the litigation process.

The review was commissioned by the Master of the Rolls Sir Anthony Clarke last November and is due to report back in December this year.
However, with PI reform on hold and any implementation of Jackson LJ’s review unlikely to come into effect until early 2010 (an election year, there are grave ­concerns about whether it will be of any use at all.

“I think Jackson [LJ] is only doing this work because the Master of the Rolls needs to be seen doing something and they’re all vying for position,” one source said. “He [Clarke] is not happy at all about constantly being questioned by the MoJ and this was one way of getting around that.”

Another well-placed source said: ”[Lord ­Chancellor] Jack Straw has been in conversation with Anthony Clarke and they all want to get ahead of each other. There are clearly some egos at play here. For a practitioner it couldn’t be less helpful.”

In a statement the MoJ said: “Ministers are committed to delivering the new process as soon as possible but, in view of the need to ensure that this can be ­effectively and smoothly rolled out, have agreed that implementation should be deferred until April 2010.”