The government this week set out details of its review of civil justice reforms – as their creator gave the changes his ringing endorsement.
The Ministry of Justice has confirmed its officials will begin work this year on reviewing part two of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO), which was implemented in 2013.
Reforms included a ban on referral fees in personal injury cases, the introduction of costs budgeting and, crucially, the abolition of the recoverability of success fees and ATE insurance from losing defendants.
Speaking at a Civil Justice Council conference in London today, Sir Rupert Jackson, the former Court of Appeal judge who devised the reforms, said LASPO has ‘substantially’ reduced litigation costs by taking away unnecessary factors pushing them up.
He said new disclosure rules, when properly applied, have cut down the work and costs of disclosure, while new compliance rules, contained in Civil Procedure Rule 3.9, have reduced the need for adjournments. Jackson, now an arbitrator and adjudicator following his retirement from the bench, also credited standard online directions for providing practical assistance to practitioners and saving time in the run-up to case management hearings.
Jackson conceded the current situation is not perfect, with costs in many cases still disproportionate and beyond the means of those who wish to bring or defend claims. ‘It was always envisaged that, in due course, some lower value multi-track cases would pass from the costs management regime into a fixed recoverable costs regime,’ he said. ‘We now have sufficient experience to take that forward.’
The MoJ’s post-legislative review of part two of LASPO is separate to the review of part one (which dealt with legal aid reforms). The number of personal injury claims fell by 5%, according to the government, in the four years post-LASPO, and the review will ask if numbers of meritorious cases increased or decreased as a result of the reforms.
It also asks if there are any concerns about qualified one-way costs shifting, introduced after LASPO, and what further amendments may be required.
The MoJ’s introduction to the review acknowledges criticism of the arrangements for damages-based agreements, which have yet to be taken on by practitioners in any great numbers. The issue of so-called hybrid DBAs, which would allow them to be used alongside private funding arrangements, is once again on the agenda. Further topics for discussion include Part 36 offers, the referral fee ban and the effect on ATE insurance premiums.
Stakeholders who want to comment on the impact of the reforms can respond online by 24 August.