A summary of key developments including a political landscape roundup, an update on the Damages Claims Portal, the Civil Justice Council’s holistic costs consultation, and the Ministry of Justice’s proposals to increase the use of mediation in the civil justice system.
Political landscape update
Following an eight-week leadership contest, on 6 September 2022 officially succeeding Boris Johnson, Liz Truss was appointed prime minister of the United Kingdom. Since then she has dismantled the prime minister units at Number 10 established under the Boris Johnson leadership, and appointed her own Cabinet and junior Ministers.
In the short to medium term, as outlined in the mini budget, “tackling energy costs to bring down inflation, backing businesses and helping households” were highlighted as central to the Government’s growth plan. Speaking at the fiscal event, Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng announced a competition to provide up to £500 million in support to funds backing science and tech businesses, in an effort to boost growth in the sector. Cuts to National Insurance, income tax and an Energy Bill Relief Scheme starting on 1 October 2022 were also announced. A full budget is expected to follow in November.
In response to the new Government's financial plans, on 26 September 2022 the Bank of England confirmed it “will not hesitate” to change interest rates to control inflation and was monitoring markets "very closely", after the value of the British pound fell to a record low.
Contact: Fiona Hamilton-Wood
Damages Claims Portal now mandatory for instructed defendant legal representatives
As of 15 September 2022, it is mandatory for instructed defendant legal representatives to use the Damages Claims Portal (DCP) to respond to claims falling in scope of Practice Direction 51ZB ‘The Damages Claims Pilot’. If a defendant representative has not been instructed, the claim will be handled in the “heritage system”.
The claimant is required to give the defendant at least 14 days’ notice of their intention to bring a claim using the DCP “unless it is impractical to do so”. If this condition is satisfied and the defendant has instructed a legal representative before the claim is started in the DCP (i.e. issued under the Part 7 county court claim paper process) then it is mandatory for the defendant representative to confirm to the claimant that they have been instructed and provide a notification email address for use in the DCP.
The claimant must then provide the defendant representative’s email address for claim notification to the court using the DCP. There are specific fields to complete to confirm this information and the defendant legal representative’s reference.
The circumstances in which it would be “impractical” for the claimant to provide at least 14 days’ notice to the defendant of their intention to bring a claim using the DCP are not clearly defined in the CPR and PD updates. However, limitation would be one example which may be considered impractical.
The CPR and Practice Direction updates do not specify sanctions for failure to comply with PD51ZB. It is anticipated that sanctions will be for the judiciary to decide.
- Damages Claims Portal: an update for defendants
- Damages Claims Portal: mandatory for defendants from 2 June 2022
Holistic costs review launched by the Civil Justice Council
The Civil Justice Council (CJC) Costs Working Group, set up at the request of Sir Geoffrey Vos Master of the Rolls, has been charged with taking a strategic and holistic look at costs, particularly given the ongoing transformation of civil justice into a digital justice system. As part of the review exercise, the group has launched a consultation that will remain open until 12pm on 14 October 2022.
Although no specific proposals are being put forward at this stage, the four areas that the CJC Working Group is seeking comments on are:
- Costs budgeting.
- Guideline hourly rates (GHRs).
- Pre-action protocols and the digital justice system.
- Wider consequences of extending fixed recoverable costs.
Underpinning these topics are three ‘dimensions’ identified by the group, namely: digitisation, vulnerability and the economic significance of the civil justice system.
UK Government consults on increasing the use of mediation in the civil justice system
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is proposing that all defended small claims (claims under £10,000) should be automatically stayed for 28 days and referred to the Small Claims Mediation Service for a free appointment with a mediator provided by HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS). The MoJ is also considering whether its proposal should be expanded beyond small claims. The consultation will close at 11:59pm on 4 October 2022.
These proposals follow the MoJ’s Call for Evidence on Dispute Resolution in England and Wales, which was launched in August 2021 and sought insights on how disputes might be best settled out of court.