Bar to 'get tough' on court costs

THE BAR Council is calling for extra judges and more open courts to speed up case processing, in contrast to Government policy of rationalising the numbers of courts.

The Bar's view is part of a wide raft of proposals for getting “tough on court costs” to be put in a submission to Lord Woolf.

Other proposals include extending the small claims jurisdiction in the County Court, strong judicial control over High Court cases and case management conferences to help maintain the momentum in a case.

High Court listing must also be improved, with fixed trial dates made available, says the submission, drafted by the Bar's working party on civil justice.

It calls for discovery costs to be cut by making discovery a two-stage process, with only materially relevant documents available in the first instance.

Costly expert evidence is also targeted. The Bar calls for measures to restrict use of such evidence where appropriate.

Peter Goldsmith QC, Bar Council chairman, has urged Lord Woolf to topple the “paper mountains” as part of the drive towards more accessible justice.

“We will also urge him to reject suggestions to extend paper-based litigation, which would only make matters worse,” says Goldsmith.

The Bar believes that Lord Chancellor Lord Mackay is examining ways of developing a new role for the young Bar in relation to allocation of block contracts for legal aid services.

“I also hope Lord Woolf's proposals will enable young barristers to play an important role in civil justice.

“They can offer specialist service at competitive rates to small-scale litigants in cases worth under u10,000,” says Goldsmith.