The government must postpone all further civil justice reforms until lawyers have had sufficient time to prepare for change, the Law Society said today.
Society president Lucy Scott-Moncrieff welcomed justice secretary Chris Grayling’s decision to halt April’s expansion of the RTA Portal – confirmed over the Christmas break – as the ‘only sensible option’.
It followed lobbying by the Society and various claimant groups who argued that the electronic portal system would not be ready to cope with the expected increase in cases.
Scott-Moncrieff said, following the climbdown over the portal, it was now time to consider delaying the implementation of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, also due for the start of April.
‘However much the Law Society and its members may dislike some of the changes being introduced by the LASPO Act, we recognise that parliament has spoken,’ she said.
‘Our concern now is that rushed and ill-judged implementation will damage public confidence in the justice system, which is in nobody’s interests.
‘It is a sign of good government to spend more time ensuring that changes are properly thought through so that everybody, including practitioners, has time to prepare properly.’
In a letter to the justice secretary in November, Scott-Moncrieff advised that the profession and legal system needed time to assimilate changes if they are to be implemented smoothly.
She pointed to the Woolf reforms in 1999 which were ready more than a year before they were implemented. In contrast, a consultation on fixed costs for personal injury work finished only today - and rules governing one-way cost-shifting have yet to be approved.
The government issued a statement in December saying that a new protocol for the RTA Portal was to be announced ‘in the new year’, but that has yet to materialise.