The ACL has a significant role to play in efforts to improve access to justice, according to a High Court judge who chairs the Civil Justice Council’s work in this area.
Giving the keynote speech to last week’s ACL Manchester conference, Mr Justice Robin Knowles (pictured) asked: “What is the point of the legal profession if our work becomes only available to some and not others?”
Sir Robin said the ACL had an important role to play. “Of any association, this is the one that knows why cost is currently incurred and where. This is the association that can pinpoint where great efficiency can be achieved, duplication avoided, and a different aspect to the case identified.”
He urged the ACL and its members “to look at everything”. He explained: “No question is too fundamental to be looked at. A simple question can start opening our minds.”
They then need to actually bring ideas forward. “We can’t really say ‘that’s a matter for government, what’s government doing about this?’ if the expertise lies more in this room than in the civil service or elsewhere.”
Solutions, rather than a cry of ‘we need more resources’, were what was needed, as was evaluation of what was working and what was not. “Nothing is better at persuading authority than an argument based on evaluation,” Sir Robin explained.
Also at the conference, Professor Dominic Regan gave the inside track on developments in the world of litigation, saying that one theme starting to emerge was “to what extent do you owe a duty to the other side to put them right when they make mistakes?”
The case of May v Wavell may yet reach the Court of Appeal, he said – permission is pending – while a Civil Justice Council report on whether ADR should become compulsory should be published soon. His personal view was that it was unlikely to make such a recommendation.
The outcome of the review on fixed costs in clinical negligence cases was expected in December, Professor Regan continued, but there was no word as yet from the Ministry of Justice as to when it would consult on Lord Justice Jackson’s proposal to extend fixed costs.
“At the moment, it is slipping and slipping. If they happen, I can’t see it will be before October 2019.”
A full report of the Manchester conference will be in the forthcoming issue of Costs Lawyer.
Credit: Jon Parker Lee Photography