REUTERS | Ali Jarekji

CPRC Snippets: July 2015: work in progress – other points considered

In two blog posts earlier today, I outlined items considered by the CPRC that are being implemented as part of the 81st CPR update, and then provided a round up of some interesting planned refinements to the costs management regime now in the pipeline. This blog post looks at some of the other items that were on the packed agenda for July, ranging from the possible introduction of fixed recoverable costs in lower value clinical negligence cases (a key issue being the definition of “lower value”) to access to court documents for members of the press.

Fixed recoverable costs in clinical disputes

The minutes record that proposals to introduce fixed recoverable costs for clinical negligence claims in England and Wales for all cases up to £100,000 (or possibly even £250,000) are at “a very early stage”.

The papers considered by the CPRC at the July meeting included a memo from the Department of Health which expresses an intention to conduct a full public consultation during autumn 2015, with a view to finalizing rules by July 2016 for implementation in October 2016. The CPRC has been asked to assist the Department of Health with the preparation of draft rules, before the matter goes for public consultation.

The Department of Health recognises that the proposed change is significant, particularly for claimant lawyers, but considers that there is a need to address the problem of disproportionate costs in lower value claims. Its memo to the CPRC notes that claimant legal costs for cases closed in 2013/14 amounted to 273% of damages awarded in claims between £1,000 and £10,000, going down to 54% for claims between £100,000 and £250,000. The memo also notes that Jackson LJ has continued to press for fixed costs “in the lower reaches of the multi-track”, something endorsed by Lord Dyson.

The minutes record that the CPRC voiced concerns that a scheme for “low value” claims might encompass claims of up to £250,000, noting that this could have a major impact on other rules. It was also noted that careful consideration should be given to possible exceptions.

Take note: court transcription services

Our blog post on the June CPRC meeting noted that HMCTS hopes to have new contracts for the provision of transcription services, in place by January 2016, and it set out a detailed summary of some of the issues being considered.

This was back on the agenda at the July meeting, and the minutes record two points of interest:

  • The CPRC expressed concern regarding a proposal that only providers with a contract with the Lord Chancellor should be able to provide transcription services. It felt that this could affect the quality of transcribing, particularly in cases where specialist knowledge was required.
  • The fact that, currently, the Cabinet Office is not in favour of “off-shoring” transcription services, but that is under review.

Enforcement measures

Some progress has now been made on the initiative to centralise attachment of earnings and charging orders, and it is hoped that more substantial proposals will be put to the CPRC in October.

It was noted, though, that some fundamental points still need to be agreed: for example, whether there should be one or more centres.

One committee member suggested that there should be a consultation on the proposed changes, but others felt that the sub-committee working on this should be able to take account of possible concerns.

Open justice

Our CPRC snippets from the March, April and May CPRC meetings refer to ongoing consideration of requests from the press for improved access to materials, such as skeleton arguments, which they say are necessary for reporting purposes.

The minutes from the July meeting note that there has been a “substantial response” to the consultation on access to court documents by the press. It has not yet been possible to consider all of the responses and prepare a paper, so this will be back on the agenda for further discussion in October.

To view the papers in full on our website, see the resources page and the section headed “Civil Procedure Rule Committee Meetings”. The papers include draft minutes, which provide a useful summary of all of the matters discussed.

Practical Law Dispute Resolution Beverley Barton

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