15 January 2013Print This Post

Ignore portal delay and press on with fixed costs, FOIL urges government

Clarke: Jackson reforms need to be implemented as a whole package

The delay in extending the RTA portal should not mean that the introduction of fixed fees should be held back, insurance lawyers told the government yesterday.

The Forum of Insurance Lawyers (FOIL) said it accepted that if the extended portal will not be ready to function properly by April 2013 then its implementation should be delayed. But it maintained that the government needs to keep to its commitment to fix and control cost by April 2013.

In announcing just before Christmas that it was reconsidering the implementation date for the portal, the Ministry of Justice said the consultation on the proposed levels of fixed recoverable costs – which closed on 4 January – was not affected. This led to speculation that the government intends to introduce such fixed costs as it can on 1 April irrespective of the portal extension not taking place then.

Don Clarke, immediate past-President of FOIL, said: “If the portal cannot be developed in time, then there is no reason why a protocol cannot be brought in with fixed fees at an early stage.

“It is important that the government keeps to its commitment to control costs by April 2013 and avoid measures being introduced in drips and drabs. The Jackson reforms contained in Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 were intended to be implemented as a whole package at once and not doing this runs the risk of the reforms becoming distorted.”

Meanwhile, Professor Dominic Regan has reported that judicial training on the Jackson reforms began last week, even though the first 150 pages of changes to the Civil Procedure Rules have yet to be signed off – “although I am certain this will be a formality”, he said.

Writing on his blog, he continued: “More intriguing is news that a second tranche of measures will follow but not until after the Rule Committee meets on 8 February.”

On a related note, practitioners are eagerly awaiting the Court of Appeal’s ruling in Henry, which should indicate its approach to costs management and sanctions for non-compliance with updating budgets. The Senior Costs Judge had disallowed £300,000 in costs because there was no good reason for the claimant to depart from the court-approved budget. This was despite the fact that she would have a “very good case” to justify the extra costs in a detailed assessment.

The appeal was fast-tracked and heard late last year and the decision had been expected last week. However, the judiciary press office told Litigation Futures yesterday that there is no date for judgment yet.

By Neil Rose

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