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Civil Justice Council consultation on vulnerable witnesses – Law Society response

14 October 2019

The proposals

We’ve responded to the Civil Justice Council’s consultation on vulnerable witnesses and parties within civil proceedings.

The consultation contains seven recommendations:

  • the Civil Procedure Rule Committee should consider amending the current procedure rules (and any relevant accompanying practice directions) to focus the attention of all civil judges, parties and advocates upon the issue of vulnerability
  • Directions Questionnaires should be amended to request information as to the vulnerability or potential vulnerability of a party
  • the Judicial College should consider enhancing the training of civil judges, both salaried and fee paid, in relation to issues of vulnerability
  • HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) should review and produce guidance in relation to the use and funding of intermediaries in civil cases
  • HMCTS should ensure that individual court centres/courts should prepare comprehensive operational protocols which should include consideration of the assistance/protections that can be given to vulnerable parties/witnesses given available facilities in both civil and family cases
  • as a matter of urgency HMCTS should ensure all staff who handle civil cases are given adequate training with regard to identifying, communicating with and assisting vulnerable court users
  • the Judicial College should consider the need for guidance/training/re-enforcement of training as to applications for and the making of/refusal to make compensation orders in cases of sexual assault/abuse

Our view and the impact on solicitors

We are broadly supportive in principle of the recommendations set out in this consultation.

Access to justice and ensuring that all parties can effectively participate in court proceedings is central to the efficient and fair resolution of a civil case.

However, we are mindful of the cost implications of these recommendations.

We would expect that the issue of vulnerability in the civil courts is looked at holistically and in parallel with other reforms to the court process – including, but not limited to, the:

  • HMCTS court reform programme
  • extension of the fixed recoverable costs regime for civil cases valued up to £100,000

Next steps

The consultation closed on 11 October.

A public summary of the consultation responses and a final report will be published on the Civil Justice Council’s website in due course.

Read the consultation on the Civil Justice Council website

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