News story

Clarke announces major overhaul of civil justice

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The first major overhaul of the civil justice system in 15 years and reform of controversial 'no win no fee' deals were announced today.

The proposals, which have been launched for public consultation, aim to modernise the civil justice system and make it simpler, quicker, cheaper and more effective.

Mr Clarke said: ‘An effective system of civil justice is one of the cornerstones of a civilised society. Without it businesses couldn’t trade, individuals couldn’t protect their liberties, and government couldn’t be held to account.

‘But with no major reform for 15 years, the civil justice system has got out of kilter. Businesses and other people who have been sued can find that spiralling legal costs, slow court processes, unnecessary litigation, and the ‘no win, no fee’ structures which mean greater payments to lawyers than to claimants, are setting them back millions of pounds each year.

‘At a time when the Government is committed to doing all it can to help businesses to grow and to help ordinary citizens to regard the justice system without fear, I will not allow this to continue.’

Major reforms

The proposed reforms also include plans to improve how court judgments are enforced and increasing the use of mediation to help people avoid court where possible.

Mr Clarke said: ‘Most people dread going to court because of all the cost and anxiety it involves. We must change that by helping them to avoid court where possible and cutting costs where that is unavoidable.’

There are also plans to:

  • Raise the small claims limit from £5,000 to £15,000
  • Change the county court jurisdiction so that the High Court is used for bigger and more complex claims only
  • Expand the use of a successful online system to slash waiting times and legal expenses
  • Abolish recoverability of success fees and associated costs in ‘no win no fee’ conditional fee agreements