Law Society's civil blueprint

THE LAW Society has called for a single civil court to be established as part of a package of measures designed to speed up and cut the cost of litigation.

Other proposals include specialist judges and courts, better disclosure and discovery, “plain English” pleadings and a new Standing Commission that would review civil law procedures.

The proposals are contained in 'Civil Justice: The Way Ahead', the society's first submission to Lord Woolf's ongoing review of civil justice.

Charles Elly, Law Society president, says the measures will reduce the number of hearings, the time taken on cases and the amount of paper used, making the system simpler and quicker.

He says: “The society has put forward a package of reforms which would dramatically improve our civil justice system for everyone.

“It is vital the presently too-complex rules and procedures are simplified, especially to improve access to justice for those not eligible for legal aid and who currently find the costs of going to court daunting.”

The submission, drawn up by a working party, says that as well as streamlining to just one court, there should also be only one point of entry, although there could be different routes through the system.

In order to cut the amount of time wasted, the society says discovery should be more focused ahead of complex cases. Specialisation among judges and courts would boost the level of expertise.

The use of court-appointed expert witnesses is opposed because of the cost, and case management would identify important issues, the society says.

Time limits should be imposed on some oral evidence, trial listing should give more consideration to the parties involved and more should be done to ensure each side lays its “cards on the table”.

The Standing Commission would take over from the County and High Court rules and procedure committees, continuously monitoring the courts' operation.