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Northern Ireland: Civil Justice Reform Group Report

Volume 620: debated on Tuesday 16 January 2001

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asked Her Majesty's Government:What action they are taking in respect of the recommendations in the final report of the Civil Justice Reform Group in Northern Ireland. [HL314]

The final report of the Civil Justice Reform Group was published on 16 June with a consultation period until the end of September. My original purpose in establishing the group was to ensure a reform programme tailored to Northern Ireland's needs and informed by those with practical experience of the system.I am very grateful to Lord Justice Campbell, who chaired the group, and to the other members for their work. I am also grateful to those who responded during the consultation period. Broadly, I accept the report's main direction and its principal recommendations. There are notable departures from arrangements in England and Wales but I am satisfied they are appropriate in the Northern Ireland context.There are a few technical recommendations in relation to expert evidence on which I do not share the views expressed in the report. These will require further consideration and of course there are other points of detail to be looked at closely during the implementation process, but overall I am of the view that the report's recommendations represent a major step forward in the reform of the civil justice system in Northern Ireland to make it as accessible, economic and efficient as possible. Implementation will begin as soon as possible with an increase in the small claims jurisdiction early this year followed by an approximately two-year rolling programme of subordinate legislation and operational changes.