Minister McEntee publishes Implementation Plan on Civil Justice Efficiencies and Reform Measures
· Implementation Plan sets out the approach to reforming the administration of Civil Justice in Ireland
· Reforms will enable easier, cheaper and quicker access to civil justice
27 May 2022
The Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, T.D., has today published an Implementation Plan setting out how the most significant reform to civil law in the history of the State will be achieved. The Plan was noted by Government last week and can be viewed on the Department of Justice website at: https://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/DOJ_CJERM_2022.pdf/Files/DOJ_CJERM_2022.pdf
Publishing the Plan today, Minister McEntee said:
“The Report of the Review of the Administration of Civil Justice, also known as the Peter Kelly Report, made over 90 recommendations. When implemented, those recommendations will represent the most significant reform to civil law in the history of our State.
The accompanying Implementation Plan sets out how we will achieve these ambitious reforms, with the goal of enabling easier, cheaper and quicker access to civil justice by improving procedures, reducing the costs of litigation and reducing delays.
We are working closely with the Courts Service, which is implementing its own ambitious Courts Modernisation Programme in a way that aligns closely with the actions under this Plan to ensure better outcomes for all court users.
I am pleased to say that six of the actions under this Implementation Plan have already been completed, including changes to Rules of Court to encourage compliance with time limits to reduce delays. Substantial progress has also been made on the increased use of video conferencing across courtrooms and we will seek to continue to accelerate the digitalisation of our courts to ensure that justice is accessible for everyone.
I look forward to seeing more actions implemented in the coming months and years and to delivering a modern civil justice system that serves the people of Ireland now and into the future.”
Some of the key actions for implementation under the Plan include:
- The replacement of multiple court documents with a single document to commence legal proceedings;
- Simplification of the language and terminology in Rules of Court;
- Promotion of video conferencing for the taking of expert and other evidence;
- An online information hub to provide dedicated legal and practical information for those considering bringing proceedings without professional representation;
- Standardisation of arrangements for naming and vetting of suitability of next friend or guardian ad litem to act on behalf of a child in litigation;
- Updated Courts Service Customer Charters to provide more specific measurements for performance and service levels; and
- Legislation to provide for the introduction of a more efficient and more cost effective regime for discovery and to automatically discontinue cases not progressed in 30 months.
The Minister also highlighted how the Implementation Plan is part of a broader civil justice reform programme she is spearheading across her Justice Plan 2022:
“This includes a review of our civil legal aid system for the first time in its 40 year history; the establishment of a dedicated family court structure; the finalisation of our first national strategy on family justice; and an independently chaired Judicial Planning Working Group, which is examining the number and type of judges needed over the next five years to ensure access to justice.”
Implementation of this Plan will take place on a phased basis up to the end of 2024 and progress reports will be submitted to Government each year. Indicators will be developed to demonstrate the progress which is being made, with an update being provided in each annual report. Each annual report will also consider any additional steps which need to be taken in order to ensure actions to be delivered in later years can be achieved. Minister McEntee has appointed an implementation group comprising members of the judiciary, the Courts Service, the Department of Justice, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Department of the Taoiseach to drive and oversee implementation. The Group has already met on a number of occasions and will continue to meet quarterly.
Note for Editors
The report of the Review of the Administration of Civil Justice (The Peter Kelly Report) was published on 7th December 2020.
It was the culmination of the work of the Review Group, chaired by the former President of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly. It contains over 90 recommendations that aim to make the civil justice system more efficient and easier for people to access.
Given the breadth and complexity of the recommendations, an Implementation Plan has been developed which identifies seven work streams aligned to the main themes from the Kelly Review, and sets out the timelines for implementation over the next three years.
- Civil Procedure in the Courts: To reform a range of practices and procedures to improve and modernise the Civil Courts to ensure timelier hearings and reduce delay.
- Discovery: To reform the system of Discovery to reduce the cost of litigation, improve procedures and reduce delay.
- Judicial Review: To consider primary legislation for the non-statutory system of judicial review with the aim of enhancing the timeliness, efficiency and cost effectiveness of the process and to amend elements of the Rules of Court.
- Multi-Party Litigation: To legislate for a comprehensive Multi-party Action procedure in Ireland.
- Litigation Costs: To consider and advance measures to reduce the costs of litigation, including costs to the State.
- Facilitating Court Users: To achieve more effective outcomes for court users, with particular emphasis on vulnerable court users, including children and young persons, litigants who are ineligible for civil legal aid, and wards of court.
- Technology and e-Litigation: To create a secure digital environment to facilitate e-litigation and to modernise the digital facilities of Irish Civil Courts.
One area on which the Kelly Review Group was not able to reach consensus was on whether to introduce a scale of legal costs and if it should be mandatory. The Department of Justice has commissioned economic research in this area. When completed, this research together with appropriate legal advice on its findings and implications, will inform policy proposals which Minister McEntee intends to bring to Government next year. The objective will be to reduce the cost of litigation and to improve access to justice.