The Review Group chaired by former President of the High Court, the Hon. Mr Peter Kelly has issued its much anticipated and comprehensive report on “Review of the Administration of Civil Justice”. The Review Group’s remit was to examine the current administration of civil justice in the State with a view to:
- Improving access to justice;
- Reducing the cost of litigation including costs to the State;
- Improving procedures and practices so as to ensure timely hearings;
- The removal of obsolete, unnecessary or over-complex rules of procedure;
- Reviewing the law of discovery;
- Encouraging alternative methods of dispute resolution;
- Reviewing the use of electronic methods of communications including e-litigation;
- Examining the extent to which pleadings and submissions and other court documents should be available or accessible on the internet;
- Identifying steps to achieve more effective outcomes for court users.
Legal practitioners and other stakeholders have been calling for reform of the administration of civil justice for many years. Some valuable reviews have been carried out and reports prepared, with insightful recommendations for reform and innovation. Although some have been implemented, many of the reforms previously recommended still await implementation. Mindful of this, the Review Group, has, in its own words, made recommendations which it believes are “practical, affordable and capable of implementation with as little fuss as possible”.
The report makes in excess of 90 recommendations, some of which, if implemented, would completely transform aspects of the administration of civil justice. Others would make less dramatic impact but, if implemented, would bring about much needed and very welcome reform. The Hon. Mr Peter Kelly has himself identified those recommendations dealing with discovery, judicial review and litigation costs as the recommendations likely to have greatest impact in achieving the reform the Review Group was tasked to identify. The Review Group reached consensus on all of the recommendations except those which aim to reduce litigation costs. A minority of the group was in favour of prescribing maximum costs levels, with the majority in favour of the use of non binding guidelines as to costs levels.
Some of the recommendations will not require primary legislation in order to come into force and can be implemented with relatively minor administrative changes e.g. changes to the Rules of Court. Others will require legislative change. The review and report are a very welcome step towards modernisation of and greater efficiencies in the administration of civil justice.
Helpfully, the Review Group has recommended that many of the reforms previously recommended by various other review groups and by the Law Reform Commission, should now be implemented. It is to be hoped that the support of the Review Group will now put an impetus behind some of the much needed and excellent reforms previously recommended. It is worth noting that at the launch of the Report, Minister McEntee stated that an implementation group would be set up with a view to publishing a reform plan in February 2021. The plan will have timelines for the implementation of various measures which will be adopted.
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About the Authors
Mary is a partner and Head of the Healthcare team at Hayes solicitors. She specialises in professional indemnity defence litigation and in particular dealing with high value clinical negligence claims. Mary has extensive experience in civil litigation, acting for insurance companies, indemnifiers and plaintiffs.
Conor is an associate solicitor in the Healthcare team at Hayes solicitors. He has over 5 years’ experience working for leading firms in both Ireland (north & south) and England. Conor advises clinical practitioners and their indemnity bodies on the defence of medical negligence claims.