Review suggests ending automatic right to appeal

A time limit on oral arguments, major limits on the automatic right to appeal and fixed recoverable costs are among reforms being considered for the civil division of the Court of Appeal.

The proposals, published last week in a consultation paper, were prepared by the review body charged with finding ways of improving efficiency in the court. The body includes Master of the Rolls Lord Woolf.

The paper suggests appeals to the court should not be an automatic further stage in a case and that some should not normally go beyond the High Court.

Other suggested options are:

allowing High Court and circuit judges to sit in the Court of Appeal;

greater use of two judges and specialist courts;

hearing fast track appeals in the High Court;

time limits on oral arguments;

costs paid by the state for appeals which have wide public benefit or arise from a clear error by the court below.

Suzanne Burn, secretary of the civil litigation committee at the Law Society, said the paper was on the right track but added it was too early to think about fixed and benchmark costs for the Appeal Court.

Peter Scott QC, head of Fountain Court chambers, said it might be useful to look at procedures in the European Court of Justice where a statement of all the relevant facts is completed before the appeal.