The absence of rules, regulations and practice directions with just 10 weeks to go before implementation of the Jackson reforms is “wholly unacceptable” and threatens the tip the civil litigation system into chaos, the president of the London Solicitors Litigation Association (LSLA) has said.
Voicing civil litigators’ “deep-seated concerns about silence from the Ministry of Justice”, Francesca Kaye said she feared that to meet “an artificial deadline we will get piecemeal implementation of rules and regulations, which is the last thing any of us wanted”.
Had the draft rules and regulations been issued for consultation six months ago, “rather than the overwhelming and dark impenetrable silence we have experienced”, practitioners might not feel so concerned about 1 April, she added.
Ms Kaye predicted that the delay in publishing draft rules and regulations, lack of IT and administrative resources in court and lack of time for the judiciary to get up to speed with an increased level of case management was adding up to “a perfect storm where the current crisis would be tipped into chaos”.
She added: “The delay in providing the rules and regulations, and the failure to disclose at an earlier stage the proposed transitional arrangements together with the dangers inherent in such late disclosure, are a matter of immense concern to practitioners.
“In the short term the big bang approach is likely to increase costs to clients, increase risk to both clients and the legal profession, increase satellite litigation, cause delay and uncertainty and, in fact, reduce access to justice. This is not what Lord Justice Jackson intended and is not what the government thought it was doing.”
Ms Kaye continued: “As at today’s date we understand that the rules are in final form and either have or are about to be signed off. The regulations intended to support some aspects of the proposed changes are still not complete. The extension to the RTA portal has already been postponed as a result of the inability to make changes to the portal in time for 1 April 2013. Other areas of the proposed changes have been put back.
“This is a wholly unacceptable way for such significant changes in the civil justice system to be introduced. It adversely impacts on the legal profession as a whole and on the general public whom it was intended to benefit.”
Meanwhile, Litigation Futures understands that while Lord Justice Jackson is now back working full-time following serious illness, the length of his absence and proximity to 1 April mean he will not be resuming his role in implementation of his reforms. Mr Justice Ramsey will continue to take the lead.