The Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls have commissioned an “urgent review” of the structure of the civil courts.
Sir John Thomas and Lord Dyson have asked Lord Justice Briggs – who will be taking over as deputy head of civil justice in January and previously headed the Chancery modernisation review – to undertake the work and produce an interim report by the end of this year.
A statement said: “An essential part of the HMCTS reform programme involves deciding how best to deliver civil justice in England and Wales in a modern age of information technology.
“The Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls, as Head of Civil Justice, have asked Lord Justice Briggs to carry out an urgent review of the structure of the courts which deliver civil justice. His work is designed to align optimally with the reform programme and in addition to look at the overall structure of civil justice.
“He will also look at the relationship of those courts with the Family Court and with the various tribunals.
“This will help to ensure that the reform programme designs a service which makes best use of the large capital investment proposed and provides a modern, efficient and accessible civil dispute resolution service for all.”
Lord Justice Briggs will be assisted by a “small team” and will be supported by the Civil Judicial Engagement Group in an advisory capacity. He will also be seeking “a wide range of views about this large subject” during the next few months.
Earlier this month, the Chancellor of the High Court, Sir Terence Etherton, said there needed to be investment in the county court to ensure that cases are allocated to the right level of judge and in turn free up time in the higher courts. He also suggested that the financial limits which determine where cases are heard would have to be adjusted.
Also this month, a speech by Sir Brian Leveson, president of the Queen’s Bench Division, outlined how the court system is on the verge of a “profound revolution” as technology sweeps away the old way of conducting litigation of all types.