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Civil Justice System is established to resolve disputes arising between two
individuals or organizations. The civil courts play an essential role in
promoting social order by resolving disputes, they also help in regulating
economic activity of the state by guaranteeing the enforcement of contracts,
but to what extent the civil process is efficient, has been a subject of
considerable debate. If the system is not accessible by all segments of the
society due to expense or delay, it leads to people being deprived access to
justice. Numerous reports have been published, finding the civil process not
efficient, concerning the cost of civil litigation, complication and the extent
of delay.

attempts have been made to reform the civil justice system regarding of speed
and accessibility of the civil courts, some of which were the Evershed
Committee (1953), the Winn Committee (1986), and the Cantley Committee (1979).
The several problems with the civil justice system included the formal nature
and complexity of court system, which involved strict timetables applied by
judges, precisely written claims, and rules relating to costs making it
difficult for lay people to understand. The Civil Justice Review of 1988 was another
attempt for reform, but it was widely ignored, and not many changes were
brought about, except for the shift in the amount of work from the High court
to the County court. The significant reforms to the civil justice system in
England and Wales were brought about by the Woolf Reforms in 1999, with the purpose of making
justice more accessible.

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In 1994,
Lord Woolf set up the Woolf Inquiry to review the working of civil courts of
England and Wales. It was set up to combat the critical issues of cost, delay
and complexity.  In the report ‘Access to
Justice’, Lord Woolf emphasized that the essential aim of the reform was to
increase efficiency, maintain access to justice and encourage mediation. His
recommendations formed the basis of changes to the system. Two reports were
published on the findings by Lord Woolf, an interim report (1995) and the final
report (1996) which led to the enactment of the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR)
(1998) that came into force in 1999.

aimed at establishing a single procedural rule for the County Court and High
Court. The key focus of the CPR centered around two factors, pre-action
protocols and practice directions. Importantly, these rules are reviewed and updated
on a regular basis. The overriding objective of the CPR is that civil courts
should be able to settle cases justly and at proportionate costs. The reform
was viewed in two different ways. One of them was to simplify the complexities
of the system along with making it more accessible and affordable to private individuals
as well as corporations. The other is the point of view of the English
government which was that it would assist in cost saving, especially in
relation to civil legal aid.

primary purpose of pre-action protocols was to settle cases at the earliest by
improving communication between the parties. Separate pre-action protocols were
designed for different areas such as personal injury, judicial review, housing
and medical negligence. They aimed at initiating regulation of activity before a
claim was filled. Before the commencement of proceedings, the court expects that
the parties have exchanged necessary information regarding each other’s
position; deciding on how to proceed, trying to settle the issue to avoid
proceedings and considering Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to assist in
the settlement. The CPR has also helped reduce the number of claims issued,
allowing the courts to deal with those that do come before them. The
contributing factor to this decrease is ADR, a widely welcomed development.

ever-increasing cost of litigation was found to limit access to justice;
lawyers were required due to the complexities of the civil justice system,
which made litigation very expensive; also costs of cases were often not
proportionate to the value of the claim. Lord Woolf wanted settlements to be
less adversarial and that parties should consider ADR before starting legal
proceedings. He wanted the courts to take the view that litigation should be a
last resort; hence they have a duty to help parties settle their disputes. The
reforms of Lord Woolf made incentives for individuals to utilize ADR. Additionally,
they also gave courts discretion to penalize parties in cases where there was
no attempt to resolve disputes using ADR or where parties behaved unreasonably
in the course of ADR. An example of this is the case of PGF II SA v OMFS Co 1
Ltd, were the failure to respond to an invitation to take part in ADR was held
to be unreasonable and hence the court could issue cost sanctions against
parties. As a result, ADR was encouraged as it saved scare judicial resources
and also offered litigants a cheaper way of settling disputes in contrast to

important point to take into consideration is the fact that courts cannot force
parties to use ADR. This is primarily because not all cases can be settled
through this method and most importantly it may imply that individuals are
denied the right to fair trial resulting in the breach of Article 6 ECHR
(European Convention on Human Rights) as seen in the case of Halsey v Milton
Keynes General NHS Trust.

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