A senior member of the judiciary has become the first judge to criticise in public the level of training given ahead of the Jackson reforms coming into force.
Senior master Steven Whitaker (pictured), who is also the Queen’s remembrancer at the Royal Courts of Justice, said the level of training for judges had been ‘desultory’ in the lead-up to 1 April.
This week the Gazette revealed that judges will have had just 4.5 hours of training in costs management before the changes come into force, which the Association of Costs Lawyers says will leave them ‘ill-equipped and ill-prepared’.
Whitaker, speaking at a seminar organised by software firm Recommind, said: It will be as confusing for the judges as it is for practitioners – blind people led by partially sighted people.’
Whitaker said the literal interpretation of the new rules, that parties would have to disclose every document, was ‘complete and utter nonsense’ and he predicted that at least one member of the judiciary would write to the Ministry of Justice later this year to request ‘something more sensible’.
He endorsed e-disclosure as a way of dealing with the costs management reforms and said those practitioners who have used nothing but paper until now are ‘in for a shock’.
Technology, he explained, would help ensure that cost of disclosure is proportionate to the cost of the case.
‘It will take a year or two before it settles down,’ he said. ‘[Jackson reforms] are going to drive people to look for cheaper and more effective ways of making disclosure and that is where computerised methods will hopefully cost less.’