Civil Court Structure Review – Final Report

In February 2016, A Civil Courts Structure Review – Interim Report was published by Lord Justice Briggs which proposed an Online Court and effectively raising the small claims threshold to £25,000.

The proposal was potentially the biggest shake-up of the Court system in almost 20 years. Lovetts attended meetings with Lord Justice Briggs through the Civil Court Users Association and we also sent a full comprehensive response to the interim reportLord Justice Briggs has now reviewed all responses and has submitted his final report.

We are pleased to say that it appears Lord Justice Briggs has listened to our submissions and has backed down from his original proposal of not awarding costs to successful litigants. The report stated: “7. A limited fixed recoverable costs regime should be developed for the Online Court, designed to be or contribute to an economic model for the provision of early, bespoke, affordable advice to would-be litigants on the merits of their case (including defence) from a qualified lawyer, by the use of unbundled services from solicitors and direct access to barristers: (6.22-39) A modest element of fixed costs might also support the provision of skilled cross-examination in cases really needing it: (6.39). Otherwise the costs regime for the Online Court should be modelled on that applicable to the Small Claims Track: (6.104).” The target date for launching the new Online Court is 2020.

The Online Court will still deal with disputed cases up to the value of £25,000 and it anticipates a 3 stage process as set out below: 

Stage 1 – An automated process using software to assist litigants in identifying the nature of and issues in dispute;

Stage 2 – A mix of conciliation/mediation and case management conducted mainly by a ‘case officer’ by telephone or online but not face to face; and

Stage 3 – A determination by judges either on the documents, by telephone, by video or face to face. Overall, the proposal is to be welcomed and Lovetts will seek to work with HMCTS in order to deliver a more efficient service through the Online Court in particularly for all Claimants that have to use the Court service in order to recover debts due to late payment from their customers.    

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2 August 2016