Lawyers and other users of the new media and communications list are unhappy with how the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) apply to the field, and particularly costs budgeting, according to the outcome of a consultation launched by Mr Justice Warby.
It was announced in February that Mr Justice Warby had been put in charge of the new list and he has carried out a consultation with users to highlight areas of concern.
An overwhelming majority of the 22 respondents said the CPR and practice directions did not “adequately cater for the needs of those who litigate in this area”.
A further majority (13 of the 19 expressing an opinion) said they believed the “single most important case management issue” which needed to be tackled was costs budgeting. Another five said the most important issue was delay.
There was unanimous agreement that it would be “worthwhile” to collect statistics on the controversial subject of injunctions restraining freedom of expression, with only two respondents deeming the current system acceptable.
Respondents to the consultation included six law firms, three newspaper groups and two barristers’ chambers. Five individual solicitors replied, a solitary litigant-in-person (LIP) and the Independent Press Standards Organisation.
In his response, Warby J said respondents had put forward a “wide range of detailed and specific proposals” for changes to the procedural regime for cases in the media and communications list.
He said that among them was a change to the defamation pre-action protocol obliging claimants to “specify meaning and precise monetary relief claimed”, docketing to specialist judges, early judicial assessment of claims by LIPs and more applications dealt with on paper.
Warby J said responses did not “disclose in detail” which aspects of costs budgeting were considered to be unsatisfactory, and they were not asked for this. “This is a matter for further exploration, as is the perennial problem of delay.”
The judge added that, apart from the single LiP, respondents unanimously backed the creation of a media and communications list users committee.
He said that a meeting would be held at the High Court later this year, at which setting up the new committee would be discussed.
Warby J said any changes to the rules would have to go before the Civil Procedure Rule Committee, and it was “too early in this process to formulate any firm proposals”.