News in brief 25th February 2016

“Lot to be said for fixed costs,” LCJ tells MPs

The Lord Chief Justice this week told MPs of his enthusiasm for fixed costs, but said their extension would happen incrementally because the profession would struggle with their sudden widespread imposition.

Answering questions from the justice select committee on Tuesday about his recent annual report, Lord Thomas said “the fixed costs regime is something we ought to expand”.

“I suspect the way to deal with fixed costs is an incremental rise and not just one big bang. I think people would find that uncomfortable and we would need to monitor how it’s working.”

However, he added: “Fixed costs do work in other legal systems, and there is a lot to be said for them. It concentrates people’s minds on keeping costs proportionate.”

He also expressed his support for the online court proposed by Lord Justice Briggs (pictured) in his interim report. Although Lord Thomas accepted that the suggested upper limit of £25,000 was “a lot of money”, he said that if the limit worked, “we can push it upwards”.

Lord Thomas said he was “very optimistic” that the online court “can provide a solution” to the disproportionate cost of litigation. “Many of us feel that the current civil justice rules are too complicated – they’re designed for lawyers – so we must start again essentially for the online court.”

He said the online court would enable people with “minimal legal assistance or without lawyers” to bring cases. He acknowledged that in some cases people would need “legal assistance, but at a cost proportionate to the sums in issue”.

Clock ticks on CCMS

Nearly nine out of 10 civil applications were being made through the Client and Cost Management System (CCMS) at the last count and “everyone should now be preparing to use the system”, the Legal Aid Agency said last week.

With little over a month to go until CCMS becomes mandatory to use on 1 April, the agency said that it has made further improvements following user feedback. “For example, the most recent merits interview upgrade is now fully implemented and the 50% reduction in screens is proving popular with users. Further system upgrades on the way include document upload and means interview improvements.”

Call for libel costs PD

It is unfortunate that there is no practice direction on costs in libel proceedings and that such costs could only be controlled after the event, a High Court judge said last week.

According to a report on Lawtel of Lokhova v Tymula, Mr Justice Dingemans said there had been a very high level of costs involved in the case and that, if experienced firms adopted a practice of exchanging costs budgets beforehand, the court would appreciate it.

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Costs News
Published date
22 Aug 2016

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