In March 2017, a Review Group was formed by the Government to review and reform the administration of civil justice in Ireland. The former President of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, chairs the Review Group.
The Review Group is comprised of many stakeholders, including Judges, The Bar Council of Ireland, The Law Society of Ireland, The Courts Service and representatives from various Government departments.
The aim of the Review to be undertaken is to;
- Improve access to justice;
- Reduce the cost of litigation including costs to the State;
- Improve procedures and practices so as to ensure timely hearings;
- Remove obsolete, unnecessary or over-complex rules of procedure;
- Review the law of discovery;
- Encourage alternative methods of dispute resolution;
- Review the use of electronic methods of communications including e-litigation;
- Examine the extent to which pleadings and submissions and other court documents should be available or accessible on the internet;
- Identify steps to achieve more effective outcomes for court users with particular emphasis on vulnerable court users including children and young persons, impecunious litigants who ineligible for civil legal aid and wards of court
The Review Group has now published its report to the Minister for Justice and Equality, which is available to view at www.civiljusticereview.ie.
The report is 474 pages, with its main summary of recommendations contained from page 395 onwards. Of note are the following recommendations, which are non-exhaustive;
- Pre-action protocols for clinical negligence cases;
- Case management powers to be conferred on Deputy Masters and/or Registrars of the High Court;
- Strict enforcement of a joint report by appointed experts on behalf of the parties to narrow the issues to be dealt with at hearing;
- Automatic discontinuance of proceedings after a period of 30 months if certain criteria are not met;
- An entirely new scheme for discovery to be introduced which requires a "wholesale cultural change";
- Primary legislation to be introduced to govern Judicial Review applications;
- Implementation of some form of Multi-party Action procedure.
The recommendations suggested by the Review Group, if implemented over time, will largely improve efficiencies with the current legal system in Ireland. Hopefully that will result in improving access to justice and the "user" experience of litigation in Ireland.
Written by Mark Kelly.
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