LCD worries Civil Justice Council is lawyer heavy

The Lord Chancellor's Department has been talking to the advice sector, the Law Society and the Bar about the future role and composition of the Civil Justice Council amid advice sector concerns it may be packed with lawyers.

The Council, which will oversee implementation of the Woolf reforms of the civil justice system, is to be created under the Civil Procedure Bill, which recently had its second reading in the Commons.

As yet there has been very little indication as to how the council will be composed or how it will function.

But both the advice sector and legal organisations say they are keen for it to contain balanced representation.

The advice sector, in particular, is anxious that it should not be dominated by lawyers or civil servants.

John Wheatley, social policy officer at the National Association of Citizens' Advice Bureaux, said Woolf's reforms were about opening up the delivery of justice, for example, to advice agencies and litigants in person.

Therefore, “it would be wrong to skew it towards the traditional legal institutions. It's got to be a very practical council,” said Wheatley.

Nacab is contemplating submitting amendments to the Civil Justice Bill when it reaches committee stage in the Commons to emphasise these points.

Suzanne Burn, secretary to the civil litigation committee at the Law Society, said the main concern of all interested parties was that the Bill would not be passed because of a lack of parliamentary time before the general elections.