Reforming the Civil Courts System

Includes information about Lord Woolf's reforms aiming to make the civil courts a more appropriate system of justice.

  • Created by: GeorgeB16
  • Created on: 08-12-15 18:01

Access to Justice Report 1996

Lord Woolf reviewed the civil courts system in the Access to Justice Report 1996. He stated that the civil justice system should be:

  • Just in the results it achieves.
  • Have fair treatment of litigants (someone fighting a legal case)
  • Be understanding to users.
  • Be effectively and adequately resourced and organised.

The system at the time did not meet these goals as there were conflicting aims, cost inefficiency and a flood of various claims.

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Problems of the Civil Courts


In over 40% of cases under £12, 500, the legal cost for one side of the case exceeded the dispute amount.

  • Naomi Campbell v MGN (2005): Naomi Campbell was awarded £3000 in damages as a result of her claim but the total cost of the case was £1.5 million causing a big loss for her side.

Lawyers are usually needed due to the complexity of cases however they are not cheap. High Court litigation is not for the inexperienced and so barristers are needed to draft pleadings. 


Most cases were negotiated before the litgants reached trial and for every 900 personal injury claims, only 300 reached court. This created injustices as parties held unequal bargaining power. 


The Civil Justice Review 1985 found that the system was overstretched with delays lasting many years. This placed intolerable psychological and financial burdens on the claimants. 

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Advantages of the Civil Justice System

Lord Woolf did find some advantages within the civil justice system.

  • Compulsory process - There was no other method of compelling to resolve a dispute because attending court is compulsory if a claim against you is made.
  • Formality of procedure - In a court, evidence is given, and this makes the system a fair process.
  • Legal aid - Although this has been greatly reduced in recent years, it is still widely available for court litigation.
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