UK: Lord Woolf's Reforms And Civil Procedure Rules 1998

Last Updated: 30 May 2018
Article by STA Law Firm

Do Lord Woolf'S Reforms Need Reforming?

Part 1: The Lord Woolf Reform and the Current UK Civil Justice System

Law may seem an unchanging presence that looms over all. It indeed dictates our everyday lives. Every action that an individual performs must take into account what the law may say about it. May may feel that that law dictates every waking moment of our lives, but if one were to consider that statement carefully, they would find it to be an understatement, as the law even dictates where we may and may not sleep. While the law may seem a highly controlling element of our lives, it is something so intrinsically connected to modern civilization that we barely give it a thought. The idea of the extent of the laws reach begs the question to just how free we indeed are. However, this is not the time for that discussion.

As constant and set in stone as the legal world may seem, it is one which is continually going through change and reform. Even countries in which the legal system has developed over hundreds of years, update to the system still occur on a regular basis. The change is especially the case in the UK, as the country's civil justice system has in recent decades, been going through exceedingly extensive legal reforms which continue to this day. The UK in itself has seen some of the most important legal reforms through history. Being the founding country of one of the two primary law systems has meant that much change has arisen over time. Introductions of concepts such as equity law emerged within the country hundreds of years after the opening of the primary standard law system, and courts such as the court of chancery were introduced by the 14th century, almost 400 years after the standard law became the staple. Significant changes, such as the Magna Carta of the early 13th century, have also risen to shape the modern doctrine of the land.

A more recent reform was the Lord Woolf reform, which occurred in the late 1990's and has shaped the current system of the country. Lord Woolf proposed this reform when he published the report in the year of 1997. Following this report, and directly as a result of it, parliament introduced the Civil Procedure Rules of 1998. These are the extensive rules that are now used by the courts in England and Wales when dealing with civil matters and procedures.

Lord Woolf's reforms were initially intended to help reduce the cost and time courts spent on civil proceedings. He identified in his original report that the three critical issues facing the civil justice system at the time were costs, delays, and complexity. To combat the problems that he saw as being prevalent with the system, Lord Woolf proposed changes to the ways of the standard procedure landscape such as:

  1. Litigation to be as often as is possible
  2. There should be an increase in the usage of ADR and similar such alternate methods of dispute resolution
  3. The costs of litigation should be more affordable for the general public which would make it so that those of lower financial ability would be able to pursue a lawsuit on an equal or similar level to those with higher means.
  4. Litigation as a process would become less complex
  5. The methods of litigation would become less time consuming, and would, therefore, lead to swifter justice

The entire idea behind the proposed reforms was to make the system more approachable and user-friendly. It was recommended to have the added caveat of also cutting tax spending on the court system, which would benefit both the government and the people of England and Wales

One of the most revolutionary of the introductions that were brought in by Lord Woolf was the idea of pre-action protocols. What this pre-action protocols meant was that there would be a more significant amount of cooperation between parties before any legal action would occur, including the sharing of the necessary documentation and information. This sharing of information would give both parties the required information with which they could make more informed decisions. Also, ADR was to be pushed for in almost all cases before they could go forward to litigation. The idea behind this was that if a problem could be sorted out outside of a court, it would be, and this would save the court's time and money. At the very least, an attempt would be made to reach an agreement. Even if the ADR were to be unsuccessful in achieving a solution for both parties, it would still play a significant role in the litigation that may follow. The courts would take into account all discussions that took place during ADR, and one thing that this helps to do is that it allows for bypassing of many of the lengthy processes that usually accompany litigation.

On top of this, Lord Woolf's reforms introduced the current concept of case management into the UK civil justice system. Case management is the concept of allowing the judiciary to manage cases in court and the aim here is toallow for faster judgments, as with the courts in control, they are better able to maintain the pace and direction of the case. What this wouldensure is that there is a great deal of clarity in matters, and that unnecessary delays don't occur whether intentional or not. With the higher level of cooperation and transparency between the parties, the entire process should be smoother and the outcome of the case should be more readily understandable, and thus easier to accept.

On top of this, all civil cases must go through individual tracks depending on their complexity and value when they reach the court of the first instance, which in the UK is generally the country court. The cases would be divided between the tracks as follows:

  1. Small Claims: Small claims cases are those case with values of under £5000, and generally are quite simple. In these cases, parties still have to pay for lawyers, and since this will likely be costly, many choose not to use lawyers.
  2. Fast Track: These are cases that have a value of £5000 - £15,000 and maybe more too complicated to be considered for small claims.
  3. Multi-Track: Cases that are of higher value or that are too complex to for the previous tracks places under the multi-track.
  4. The tracks are under the 1998 Civil Procedure Rules:
  5. Article 26.6 covers the basic outlines and limitations of each track;
  6. Section 27 includes small claims in greater detail;
  7. Article 28 refers fast record in greater detail;
  8. Part 29 coversmultitrack in greater information;
  9. These three articles (27, 28 and 29) are the same as those proposed by Lord Woolf.

There were around 500,000 civil cases during the first half of 2017 (January to June). Considering that it is highly advised to first go through ADR before even considering litigation, there was likely an even higher number of cases, to begin with, and this number represents the fraction of circumstances that made it through. The facts that do make it through are then fed into the system and distributed among the different tracks.

In this way, Lord Woolf's reforms are seen to have made positive impacts on the UK's civil justice system through the streamlining process and the fact that the new system is continuously reducing the number of cases that make it through to court than initially arise. The proposed reforms led to the creation of the previously mentioned Civil Procedure Rules of 1998. Under these rules courts had to ensure the following:

Under Article 1.4, they must provide the furthering of the overriding objective of the case, by actively managing affairs and this is achieved by:

  1. Encouraging party cooperation
  2. Identifying issues at an early stage
  3. Deciding the order in which the case will proceed
  4. Aiding parties in the settling of affairs

On the matter of case management, Article 3.1 of this law covers the powers of the court. They include:

  1. Extend or reduce the time for a parties compliance
  2. Adjourn or bring forward a case hearing
  3. Place a conference on hold to await evidence
  4. Deciding the order of the issues in the trial

However, there have been questions raised as to the effectiveness of the reforms. The goals of the change have been realized and have been around for close to 20 years now; problems have been arising regarding the actual effects and effectiveness of the reforms. While the points above are indeed valid and have had a plethora of positive impacts on the overall system, problems have also risen.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions