Lord Justice Jackson is inviting the views of practitioners, users of the civil courts and any other interested parties on the proposed costs reforms. The terms of reference state that proposals will ensure that the costs of going to court are ‘more certain, transparent and proportionate for litigants’.
It will consider the types and areas of litigation in which such costs should be extended, and the value of claims to which such a regime should apply.
Jackson LJ has invited written evidence or submissions to assist the review by Monday, 16 January 2017.
The Law Society does not oppose the principle of fixed costs for straightforward, low value claims, because they can provide some certainty for both sides in litigation and avoid protracted disputes about the level of costs. However, it has previously expressed concerns at suggestions that costs should be fixed for all claims up to £250,000 - a tenfold increase on the current limit for many claims subject to a fixed cost regime. Cases at this level of compensation include situations where people have been very seriously harmed and where the application of fixed costs would be totally inappropriate.
It would also raise significant questions about people’s ability to access justice. It argues that 'Such a one size fits all approach for all cases, regardless of complexity, will simply make many cases economically unviable, undermining the principle of justice delivering fairness for all.'
Nonetheless, this long-anticipated progress in the widening of fixed costs appears overall to be a positive step towards expanding access to justice.
Lord Justice Jackson is to lead a new review of fixed recoverable costs, HM Judiciary announced today. Commissioned by the lord chief justice and master of the rolls, the review will take forward the government’s commitment – outlined in September – to a new costs regime. Jackson has been a prominent advocate of a blanket extension of fixed costs and has previously argued for them to apply to all civil claims worth up to £250,000. Jackson, whose last costs reform proposals were largely adopted in April 2013, will formally begin the review in January but will ask for submissions immediately, with the process complete by 31 July 2017. ‘Although the momentum is heavily for reform, the review will provide ample opportunity for comments and submissions on the form and scope that reform should take,’ said Jackson.