A Review Group chaired by the former President of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly and comprising of members from each court, the Law Society, the Bar Council and civil servants from various departments, submitted the “Review of the Administration of Civil Justice Report” (the “Report”) to Minister for Justice & Equality, Ms Helen McEntee, for consideration at the end of October 2020.

The Review Group was tasked with making recommendations to improve access to civil justice in the State, promote early resolution of disputes, reduce the cost of litigation, create a more responsive and proportionate system and ensure better outcomes for court users.

The Report

The lengthy Report considers how the litigation system in Ireland currently works, highlighting areas where change is needed and compares the Irish system to neighbouring jurisdictions. The Report makes over ninety recommendations which could significantly overhaul elements of civil litigation in Ireland, if implemented. Below is a summary of key recommendations to note:

  1. The introduction of a new discovery regime in Ireland: – the Review Group are of the view that the current discovery procedure should be significantly reformed as it is failing all parties involved in litigation. This could be one of the most significant developments and would be welcomed by legal practitioners and clients alike. The Review Group also call for Rules of Court to oblige parties to plead their case with far greater precision than has been the case to date.
  2. An e-Litigation model which includes (a) a secure digital environment: (b) a facility to conduct a case using technology like videoconferencing; and (c) digital access to court records which is in line with data protection and privacy rights. The Review Group recognised that the Covid-19 pandemic underlined the need for and potential of technology in the courtroom.
  3. The permitting of third-party funding of litigation for liquidators, receivers, administrators to fund proceedings intended to increase the pool of assets available to creditors in certain circumstances.
  4. The introduction of Rules of Court for a comprehensive multi-party action procedure in the High Court and the Circuit Court, similar to the Group Litigation Order procedure in England and Wales.
  5. The introduction of (a) non-binding guidelines as to cost levels or (b) maximum costs levels with suitable safeguards to deal with exceptional circumstances with a view to reducing litigation costs (there was no consensus on this issue).
  6. The introduction of a single originating document – the claim notice, to include a detailed statement of claim – to replace the various types of originating document used across Irish jurisdictions.
  7. The simplification of language and terminology in the Rules of Court.
  8. The establishment of a dedicated list for clinical negligence actions and a dedicated list for intellectual property disputes and disputes concerning technology.
  9. The enactment of primary legislation to affect changes to the thresholds for bringing judicial review applications and amendments to the Rules of the Court to ensure a speedy hearing of the proceedings.
  10. The standardisation and strengthening of the procedure to appoint a next friend or guardian ad litem on the behalf of a child and special arrangements for adducing evidence from children.
  11. A requirement to enter an appearance in all actions and matters before the High Court and Circuit Court within eight days from service of the claim in cases where this is not currently required.
  12. An automatic discontinuance of cases where, for example, the case has not been set down for trial or certain proceedings have not been filed.

Implementing the Report

Mr Justice Peter Kelly (as he then was) refers to reports previously prepared by various bodies which failed to affect change. In this regard, the Review Group have produced recommendations which they deem “practical, affordable and capable of implementation with as little fuss as possible”. To further ensure that reform is implemented speedily, the Review Group tried to reduce the need to resort to primary legislation as much as possible. It is therefore hoped that the Review Group’s recommendations will be implemented in early course.

The Minister for Justice & Equality has advised that an implementation group will be established with a view to publishing a reform plan in February 2021.

We will be providing further updates over the coming months and we welcome you to please frequently visit our firm’s website and LinkedIn page for such updates.

Caoilfhionn Ní Chuanacháin

Caoilfhionn Ní Chuanacháin

Partner, Head of Dispute Resolution (Ireland)
Dublin, Ireland

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