The judge in charge of implementing the Jackson reforms has promised to review – and potentially change – the issues causing most concern.
Mr Justice Ramsey (pictured), speaking exclusively to the Gazette six months after the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act put most of the Jackson changes into effect, revealed he will lead a team of three looking at problem areas raised by lawyers.
It is expected the review will be complete by next April and Ramsey said he is prepared to reconsider any reform that is not having the required effect – although he ruled out another large-scale reform programme.
‘There are a number of outstanding issues,’ he said.
‘The current bill of costs is not compatible with the Precedent H for costs billing and, with the assistance from ACL [Association of Costs Lawyers], work is ongoing to bring in a new bill of costs this year of early next year. There are other issues we want to look at again, such as pre-action costs and case management.’
Ramsey will be joined by District Judge Christopher Lethem and Mr Justice Stewart to look at the progress of the Jackson recommendations. ‘Significant’ amounts of data will be collected to go alongside anecdotal evidence from practitioners.
Ramsey was keen to emphasise there were always going to be ‘transitional provisions’ which would delay full implementation by up to a year. ‘One of the concerns was the time which would be taken in dealing with case and costs management in the initial Costs and Case Management hearing,’ said Ramsey.
‘Initially during the pilot they were taking much longer than we would wish but as people become more familiar with the process the time taken reduces.’
‘Another concern is evidently funding litigation. We are seeing people adapting their business models to deal with the new rules. In some ways it is too early to tell, but the principle remains that we want access to justice at proportionate cost.
‘We will look at both of those aspects to ensure that the underlying principles are coming out of the reforms.’