New MoJ consultation document, ‘Transforming our Justice System’ paves the way for more extensive fixed costs regime

The Ministry of Justice is preparing to extend fixed recoverable costs for a wide range of civil cases. The proposals were outlined in the Transforming our Justice System consultation paper, published by Lord Chancellor, Liz Truss, on September 15th.

The proposed measures are broadly in line with Lord Justice Jackson’s suggestions which called for an extension of fixed recoverable costs to all civil cases valued up to £250,000. The measures will extend and build on the system already in place which limits recoverable costs for personal injury claims, and will extend the fixed cost regime to ‘as many civil cases as possible’.

The Transforming our Justice System consultation paper states:

‘These measures provide transparency and certainty for all parties and are designed to ensure that the amount of legal work done is proportionate to the value of the claim.’

In a joint statement, the Lord Chancellor, Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas and Lord Justice Ryder senior present of tribunals said the plan is to extend fixed recoverable costs ‘much more widely’ so the costs of going to court will be ‘clearer and more appropriate.’ The statement also added that:

‘Our aim is that losing parties should not be hit with disproportionately high legal costs, and people will be able to make more informed decisions on whether to take or defend legal action.’

In the Transforming our Justice System consultation document the government also confirmed it will establish a new online process for resolving claims. Following the recommendations made Lord Justice Briggs, the MoJ said it will create a new process to resolve many disputes entirely online, using new technology and specialist case officers to progress ‘routine cases’ through the system and reserving judicial time for the most complex cases.

The MoJ said the plans ensure legal costs are appropriate to the nature and value of the dispute at issue, adding:

‘When hearings are required, they may be held over the telephone or video conference, focusing court resources on the most complex and difficult cases. This will mean that cases should reach a quick resolution.’

However, both the Law Society and the Bar Council have said that, whilst modernisation of the justice system might be welcome; the plans outlined in the Transforming our Justice System proposals, particularly those for online courts, should be treated with caution. They said that although we may increasingly live our lives online; accessing justice online is an altogether different matter.

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