Editorials

Access to civil justice: Lord Woolf's visionary new landscape

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.313.7052.242 (Published 03 August 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:242
  1. Suzanne Burn
  1. Secretary Civil Litigation Committee, The Law Society, 113 Chancery Lane, London WC2A 1PL

    The reforms should work if they are properly tested and resourced

    In the spring of 1994, Lord Woolf, now the Master of the Rolls, was invited by the Lord Chancellor to review the rules for civil procedure and to produce one rule book to replace the existing two for the high and county courts. However, he persuaded Lord Mackay of the need for a wide ranging review of the civil justice system, and has spent two years putting together his vision, aided by a panel of assessors.

    Lord Woolf's final report was published last week.1 It has been welcomed by consumers, lawyers, and by the Lord Chancellor, which should mean that this report, unlike many of its predecessors, will gradually be implemented. Lord Woolf wants to replace the present Rolls Royce system of civil justice, which has remained largely unchanged for 100 years, with a less adversarial, faster, cheaper, more affordable system. His agenda is to put clients very firmly first. He particularly wants to help ordinary citizens and small businesses to pursue or defend claims, especially against well resourced opponents.

    The main planks of the proposed reforms are, firstly, the establishment of a new fast track for straightforward cases of claims under £10 000. The procedures will be simple, with clear, fixed timetables for trial within 30 weeks, and fixed costs to …

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