In the latest development of the government’s ongoing push to reform the courts system, the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls, as head of civil justice, this week asked Lord Justice Briggs to carry out an ‘urgent’ review of the structure of the civil justice courts, from the Court of Appeal to County Courts.
He is tasked to ‘align optimally’ with the Ministry of Justice’s reform programme and look at the overall structure of civil justice. He will also assess the relationship of civil courts with the Family Court and various tribunals to help ‘ensure the reform programme designs a service which makes best use of the large capital investment proposed and provides a modern, efficient and accessible civil dispute resolution service for all’.
Sir Briggs was called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn in 1978 and was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1994. He was the Judge in charge of the Chancery Modernisation Review in 2013 and was appointed as a Lord Justice of Appeal in April that year.
Previous reform work undertaken also includes serving as chairman of the Bar Council’s Law Reform Committee in 1999/2000. Six years later he was appointed High Court Chancery Judge from 2006-2013, and acted as the vice chancellor of the County of Palatine of Lancaster in 2012-2013.
On his latest review, he will be assisted by a ‘small team’ and supported by the Civil Judicial Engagement Group in an advisory capacity. He is further tasked with seeking a ‘wide range of views about this large subject’ during the next few months. It is expected Justice Briggs will produce an interim report by the end of 2015.
It follows the government’s launch of a fresh consultation on further court fee increases last week, just months after raising certain civil court fees by 660%. With the consultation closing on 15 September, the proposals tabled include introducing or increasing fees for tribunals, including the property, tax and general regulatory chambers; a general 10% rise to a wide range of fees in civil proceedings including for divorce and possession claims; plus an increase in the maximum fee for money claims from £10,000 to at least £20,000, which will affect claims worth £200,000 or more.
Earlier this month the government made the controversial decision to consult over closure of one fifth of courts and tribunals across England and Wales in a bid to tackle the issue of ‘underused’ court buildings and to cut costs, with a total of 91 out of the 460 court and tribunal buildings set to shut.