Following a survey conducted by the National Consumer Council, it was discovered that 1 out of 4 of people involved in stern legal disputes were satisfied with the civil Justice system. This convey that most people regarded the system to be slow, too complex and too old. Lord Woolf was asked to carry out an investigation regarding the operation of the rules for civil procedures in Wales and England. These reforms occurred in 1990, it was carried out to research whether civil litigation in England and Wales was actually time consuming, complex and expensive.
Lord Woolf identified that the critical problem in the civil justice system was the cost and the time consumption issue. Hence when he was asked to come up with a solution he came up with a detailed writing of the rules of the civil procedure. In his report, he concluded that the then present system of civil justice was too costly, too slow, too inaccessible and complex. Hence the main objective of the reform was to enable the court to deal with the cases in a just manner. This ensures that the patties are on equal footing, saves expenses on both parties. The usage of the courts resources in an appropriate manner, taking into consideration other cases. Most importantly to ensure that a case is dealt with in a fair and just manner.
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The successes of the civil procedure rules include part 36 offers, an increase in mediated settlements and sharper timetables. Even though the successes to some extent outweigh the concerns there still are some vital ones. Such as E-disclosure which is increasingly getting out of control, costs and the lack of enough informed case management from the judiciary. One of Lord Woolf’s aims was to sharpen the timetables as this would help cases come to trial faster. Timetables depend on the number of witnesses and experts however the court is hesitant to postpone a trial without good reason and cases are not allowed to drift on as under the previous system. It has been quicker to acquire a hearing date for interim applications this is due to fewer applications being released after CPR than previous.
One of the most successful rules introduces by Woolf was Part 36 offers. It offers to settle, they allow the claimant to state the amount of compensation sometimes less than damages, this urges respondents to settle. Defendants can make an offer to settle at any time before the claim is given or even during proceedings. Practitioners considered that Part 36 offers encourage settlement. There is a debate regarding whether this was due to the costs consequences of part 36 offers or the new framework for making offers. This has encouraged parties to settle without appearing weak. It seems to have become to some extent standard for claimants and defendants to make part 36 offers. Lord Justice Jackson in his review states a very valid and vital point in regard to civil costs which is he abolishment of the costs shifting rule, this is where the losing party pays the winning parties costs. In such a position Part 36 offers would assumedly fall away unless a new system was introduced providing for costs awards only in a situation that an offer was rejected.
Effective case management was vital when introducing CPR. It was important as it shifts the responsibility for the control of litigation from the parties and their legal counsellors to the court. practitioners reported that judges are conscious and that they are supposed to be preemptive. However, the overall conclusion is that the increased judicial case management relating to the defining issues such as monitoring costs and settling discussions has not been even close to the near extent emphasized by Lord Woolf. This could be due to there being a number of case managements in some commercial courts hence the judges don’t feel that they must obstruct. Judges also feel that when it comes to particular parties in some cases that there is no need to intervene as they feel that the parties could sort it out without involvement from the judges. However, it is always difficult or the judges to find some time in their very busy schedule to full prepare for such complex heavy cases.
Coming to the most vital point of Lord Woolf’s aims, which was to reduce the costs of litigation. It was felt that the costs are noticeably higher. Case management by the judiciary has not increased to the degree envisioned by Lord Woolf, the obligations put on the parties by the rules can be costly. Due to the excessive electronic documents, there has been an evident increase in disclosure. The concern is the front loading of costs through compliance with pre-action protocols. However, Lord Woolf foresaw an increase in the early phases of an action, nonetheless thought that costs generally would decrease due to the parties settling earlier. There is diminutive evidence that this has been the case in large commercial litigation. Apprehension over costs was what led to Justice Jacksons review. His review included the establishing results case management procedure has on costs and consideration if alterations in process could bring out more balanced costs. His agenda also included particular solutions such as removal of costs shifting as state previously and contingency fees.
The Woolf reforms have had their accomplishments however specific vital aims relating to costs and case management have not been met hence there has been new initiatives notably the Lord Justice Jacksons review and the Commercial Court Working Party Pilot. The challenges Lord Justice Jackson will face is suggesting changes which relate to the high costs of litigation however without affecting the capability of the courts to assess the evidence and arrive at a just conclusion. If this happens this will keep Wales and England as a jurisdiction of choice in international disputes.