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Woolf Reforms

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Introduction

a) Explain the changes applied by the civil courts as a result of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 Before the implementation of the Woolf reforms the Civil Justice Review was set up in 1985 by the Lord Chancellor in response to public criticism of the delay, cost and complexity of the civil court system. These key problem areas were also picked up on in Lord Woolf's report in 1996, he stated that a civil justice system should be just in the results it delivers, be fair in the way it treats litigants, offer appropriate procedures at a reasonable cost, deal with cases with reasonable speed, be understandable to those who use it, be responsive to the needs of those who use it, provide as much certainty as the nature of particular cases allows and, be effective, adequately resourced and organised. Lord Woolf claimed that the system failed to achieve all these goals, and also commented that this failure was inevitable, as some of the aims conflict with others, such as promoting efficiency in terms of speed conflicts with the need of fairness. While conflicting interests may mean it is impossible to achieve a civil justice system that satisfies everyone, there were serious concerns that the civil justice system before the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 was giving satisfaction to only a small minority of users. ...read more.

Middle

It provides a cheap and simple mechanism for resolving small-scale consumer disputes. Fast-track cases will normally be dealt with by the county court. Under this track the maximum length of trial is normally one day, and should be held within thirty weeks of the original claim. Multi-track cases are sometimes heard in county courts, but most likely within the High Court, depending on the complexity of the case at hand. Unlike fast-track cases, the court does not automatically set a trial date; instead it will fix this as soon as it is practicable to do so. One of the most significant changes to the civil system made be the Woolf reforms concerned the approach to legal costs. Under the old system there was a basic principle that the loser of the case paid the winner's costs, however, with the new rules the judge can give sanctions to alter who pays what. Where a party has not complied with court directions, they can be penalised by being ordered to pay heavier costs, or by losing the right to have some or all of their costs paid. These are just a few examples of the dramatic change the Civil Procedure Rules have had to the civil court system. ...read more.

Conclusion

There has only been a slight increase in the number of small claims cases. Most small claims litigants involved in relatively high value claims are satisfied with the experience. However, there are long-standing concerns about the small claims procedure, which have not been tackled by the Civil Procedure Rules. It is the view taken by many that the small claims procedure is not simple enough; the process still puts a lot of pressure on participants, and the level of formality varies. The system is still largely used by small businesses, rather than by the individual consumer for whom it was set up. A consultation paper was issued in 1995 suggesting that, in limited cases, the judge might be given the power to award an additional sum of up to �135 to cover the cost of legal advice and assistance in preparation of the case. If this reform were to be introduced it might assist individual consumer to bring their cases. Overall, the general feeling of the new Civil Procedure Rules is that some work needs to be completed but that is can be achieved; the reform of the civil justice system is generally a qualified success. There is more co-operation between the parties and more people are using ADR rather than settling at trial. ?? ?? ?? ?? Rebecca Turner Assignment 6.12 08/04/2009 ...read more.

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