Lord Justice (Rupert) Jackson today published the final report to the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, on his year-long, comprehensive review of civil litigation costs. His proposals include a wide-ranging package of reforms designed to bring costs under control and make them fairer.
The Jackson review was set up in late 2008 by the then Master of the Rolls, Lord Clarke of Stone-cum-Ebony, because the senior judiciary were - and are - concerned about the escalating costs of civil justice. Those costs are often disproportionate to the issues, in particular the sums at stake.
The report - the first ever fundamental review, specifically focused upon civil costs - sets out a coherent package of interlocking reforms, which are designed to reduce litigation costs and to promote access to justice.
In the course of his review Sir Rupert consulted extensively. His final report takes into account the wide range of views expressed during his two consultation periods (January-February and May-July 2009).
In addition to making for a more effective legal and court system (controlling excesses of litigation and fees), the report’s recommendations have the potential – if implemented in full - to yield substantial savings in legal costs for the taxpayer.
- For example, the heavy costs burden on the NHS (currently over £140 million per year) will be reduced (Chpt 23).
- The cost of libel litigation would also be substantially reduced (Chpt 32).
- Sir Rupert’s recommendations would also reduce the incomes of claims management companies and other intermediaries who profit from the current arrangements.
However, his recommendations are designed to ensure that overall members of the general public seeking justice do not lose out financially. The majority of personal injury claimants will end up with more compensation under Sir Rupert’s proposals.
The final report covers 45 subject areas and runs to 557 pages, with recommendations across the whole spectrum of civil litigation.
Sir Rupert’s key findings and recommendations include:
- Proportionality - the costs system should be based on legal expenses that reflect the nature/complexity of the case (Chpt 3);
- Success fees and after the event insurance premiums to be irrecoverable in no win, no fee cases (CFAs – Conditional Fee Agreements), as these are the greatest contributors to disproportionate costs (Chpts 9 &10);
- To offset the effects of this for claimants, general damages awards for personal injuries and other civil wrongs should be increased by 10% (Chpt 10);
- Referral fees should be scrapped - these are fees paid by lawyers to organisations that ‘sell’ damages claims but offer no real value to the process (Chpt 20);
- Qualified ‘one way costs shifting’ - claimants will only make a small contribution defendant costs if a claim is unsuccessful (as long as they have behaved reasonably), removing the need for after the event insurance (Chpts 9 & 19);
- Fixed costs to be set for ‘fast track’ cases (those with a claim up to £25,000) to provide certainty of legal costs (Chpt 16);
- Establishing a Costs Council to review fixed costs and lawyers’ hourly rates annually, to ensure that they are fair to both lawyers and clients (Chpt 6);
- Allowing lawyers to enter into Contingency Fee Agreements, where lawyers are only paid if a claim is successful, normally receiving a percentage of actual damages won (Chpt 12); and
- Promotion of ‘before the event’ legal insurance, encouraging people to take out legal expenses insurance e.g. as part of household insurance (Chpt 8).
The reforms provide a framework whereby parties could enter into litigation with greater certainty about the costs involved.
They would also assist in allowing for some claims to be resolved earlier with greater use of mediation.
The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, welcomed the report: “The judiciary has been concerned for some time that the costs of civil litigation are disproportionate and excessive.
"Lord Justice Jackson’s fundamental review addresses these questions head on. I am extremely grateful to him for the enormous work and effort that he has brought to bear on this important, complex issue and for proposals which for the first time address the issue of costs as a comprehensive, coherent whole.
"I look forward to the senior judiciary working with the Ministry of Justice to implement Sir Rupert’s coherent package of interlocking reforms, designed to reduce litigation costs and enhance access to justice in the courts.”
The Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, also welcomed Sir Rupert’s report: “Lord Justice Jackson’s report on civil costs is a magnificent achievement. Everyone, not just judges and lawyers, have every reason to be grateful to him and his team. I would like to thank Rupert and his team publicly today for a report on an important topic which urgently needs reform.
"The report is clear and comprehensive in its coverage, thorough and fair in its discussions, and imaginative and realistic in its proposals.
"The measures the report proposes will ensure that legal costs are reduced, and that civil justice will be more efficient and fairer. All interested parties have been fully consulted and their views have been reported and considered.
"The time for discussion and debate is over: it is now time for action. I hope that the Ministry of Justice will give these proposals the same enthusiastic and practical support which the Judges will give them.
"I am happy to say that Lord Justice Jackson has agreed to play a leading part in bringing his excellent proposals into effect, and I will ensure that he receives all the support that I can muster.”
Lord Justice Jackson paid tribute to the assessors and staff who have assisted him in his year-long review, and the large body of judges, lawyers and other professionals and court users who have contributed their evidence, experience and views to the review process.
He emphasised that the report’s conclusions and recommendations were his own.
Notes for Editors
- Sir Rupert started his review in January 2009.
- Lord Justice Jackson's full reportcan be accessed on the judicial website.
- Sir Rupert’s preliminary report, which contains details of his review of evidence and explanatory background material for the final report, can be accessed on the judicial website.
- Copies of both reports may be purchased from The Stationery Office (TSO).
- Please note that this news release only contains details on a few of the major proposals - the full final report should be studied to see the full effect of the recommendations and proposed reforms.