Whole package

THE REFORMS proposed in the 'Access to justice' report should be implemented as a package and not “cherry-picked”, Lord Woolf says.

Woolf, who says that “the time is right” for making changes to the civil justice system, says the wide-ranging reforms included in the 266-page interim report must be introduced as a whole and not as

individual improvements.

He says he has tried to avoid recommending changes “unless they are really necessary”.

“Without change on the scale that I am recommending, it won't work,” says Woolf.

“It is a package of change, and it is only by fully implementing it that you will get the full benefit. I am very anxious that whatever happens we don't have a situation where somebody cherry-picks.”

Expert Witnesses

COURTS may be given complete control over the calling of expert witnesses in civil cases if proposals in the Woolf report are implemented.

Lord Woolf says the calling of expert evidence should be subject to the “complete control” of the court, which should have discretion – with or without the agreement of the parties – to appoint an expert to report or give evidence.

He says experts should also be told that their first responsibility is to the court and not their client, and once they have been instructed to prepare a report any communication between them and their client or the client's legal advisers should no longer be the subject of legal privilege.

Information technology

INFORMATION technology comes to the fore in the new plans for access to civil justice with Lord Woolf suggesting equipping judges with personal computers and piloting video and telephone conference facilities.

His report also calls for video recording and viewing facilities to be introduced in “appropriate” centres, and says litigation support systems should be more widely used by the professions.

He says the provision of IT to inform and assist the public should be explored, with a view to placing it in public places and advice centres.

The policy in relation to providing primary source material, especially statutory materials, in electronic form should also be clarified.

Nicole Maley