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Radical reform of Civil Justice System – One step closer

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The Cabinet has now approved the implementation of a wide range of recommendations of the Review of Civil Administration Group chaired by Mr Justice Peter Kelly.

  The Group undertook the herculean task of reviewing the varied strands of our civil litigation processes and in its October 2020 report made 95 recommendations for wide ranging reforms.

A committee established by the Minister for Justice has now prepared a plan to implement the majority of those recommendations and has set timelines for the reforms across seven different work streams. Most of the reforms are scheduled to be implemented on a phased basis by the end of 2024.  An implementation group will comprise judges, representatives of the Courts Service and Government departments.
 
Although the details of the plan have yet to be published, we anticipate that it will prioritise the introduction of legislation to improve civil procedures and to restrict the scope for judicial review cases in the future. This is expected to include a requirement for applicants seeking court permission to bring judicial reviews aimed at quashing decisions by public bodies to establish "substantial grounds" for their challenge.
 
Similarly, it is expected that the current rules relating to discovery of documents will be significantly updated.  Some of the measures, including those calling for more active judicial case management and greater precision in the way cases are pleaded, may not require legislation and can be implemented by changing the existing court rules and procedures. This may include rules requiring litigants in personal injury claims to clearly distinguish between any pre-existing medical conditions and the injury which is the subject of their current claim.
 
The Review Group could not reach consensus on whether or not legal costs ought to be measured by way of a mandatory scale set by an independent committee and established under statute. The Minister for Justice has advised that reduction of the costs for litigation and improving access to justice remain objectives of further policy proposals that she intends to bring to Government in 2023.
 
In parallel with these impending changes, the Court Service is undertaking its own 10 year modernisation programme as part of a broader Civil Justice Reform Programme as set out in the Justice Plan 2022. This will include plans for the review of the Civil Legal Aid system.
 
Many of these reforms are accepted as necessary by all court users and the sooner that litigants and practitioners see the fruits of the reform programme in action, the better.
 
If you have any queries in relation to any matter relating to litigation or court process please contact Killian O'Reilly.

Written by: Killian O'Reilly

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