Lord Woolf reveals plans to speed up civil justice system

LORD Woolf has unveiled some of the recommendations he is likely to make next year to improve access to the civil justice system.

Among the formative plans could be limiting the numbers of judges, forcing them to work in teams to improve “case management”, and creating a new layer of “procedural judges” to shorten cases.

Woolf spoke as the National Consumer Council slammed the legal system as being “run for the benefit of lawyers”, with access being denied to many people.

At a conference entitled “Civil Justice on Trial”, Woolf said that the judiciary must be used more efficiently.

He said: “We have to make justice speedier if we are to make it cheaper and therefore more accessible.”

He said the expansion of the judiciary had to stop and that judges had to become case managers as well as arbiters.

“If we go on expanding the judiciary, we could undermine their skills and that could be very damaging to our system. Judges have to provide a central role in the management of cases.”

Commenting on the council's report, NCC chair Lady Wilcox says: “You have to be either rich enough to afford the high cost of litigation or poor enough to benefit from legal aid. There is a huge group of people caught in the middle.”