Lord Justice Briggs Publishes Final Proposals for Reform of Civil Justice
9 August 2016

Lord Justice Briggs Publishes Final Proposals for Reform of Civil Justice

Lord Justice Briggs Publishes Final Proposals for Reform of Civil Justice

Following extensive consultation the much anticipated final report into proposals for the reform of civil justice has now been published. Lord Justice Briggs has made a number of detailed recommendations which can be summarised as follows:-

The Online Court

A new Online Court, designed to be used by parties with minimal assistance from lawyers, should eventually become the compulsory forum for straightforward money claims up to £25,000. Provision is nevertheless to be made for ‘affordable’ advice on the merits of claims at an early stage which will be recoverable from the losing party. Certain complex cases may warrant additional ‘affordable’ fees being permitted for legal representation at trial.  

Reflecting submissions made by PIBA the Online Court will not include personal injury or clinical negligence claims with a value of £1,000 or more.  Chambers’ barristers Alex Foster, Stuart Jamieson and pupil Bryan Patterson-Whitaker had provided assistance to PIBA that included submissions on the working of the current portal system, a bespoke system that should negate the requirement for the Online Court to encompass personal injury cases.  It was noted within the Briggs report to this effect and that the current portal system already embraced the technological efficiencies absent from other areas of civil litigation.

Members of chambers were also heavily involved in drafting the response submitted to Lord Justice Briggs on behalf of the North Eastern Circuit of the Bar.

Claims for home repossession, professional negligence and intellectual property disputes will also be excluded. Provision is to be made for the transfer to higher courts of complex and important cases regardless of value.

Recommendations are made on assisting people who need help with online systems. Open justice and transparency issues are also to be addressed.

Case Officers

A body of Case Officers is to be developed to assist with administrative judicial functions, such as box work. Certain higher level Case Officers are to possess formal legal qualifications and will be trained and supervised by judges. Such Case Officers are likely to be involved, to some degree, in recommending appropriate conciliation methods within the Online Court system.

Enforcement of Judgments and Orders

The County Court should be the single default court for the enforcement of all civil judgments and orders (including those emanating from the Online Court). There should still be provision for appropriate enforcement matters to be transferred to the High Court (e.g. cross-border cases) and special provision is to be retained for the enforcement of arbitration awards.

All enforcement procedures are to be digitised, centralised and rationalised.


A court-based out-of-hours private mediation service is to be re-established in those County Court Hearing Centres willing to participate.

Deployment of Judges

No case should be too big to be resolved in the regions. Suitable Category A cases are to be allocated a London-based High Court Judge who will travel to the regions specifically for that case. 

The North Eastern Circuit response and chambers in addition is, of course, supportive of this initiative and the principle of regional centres of excellence.

The current acute shortage of Circuit Judges specialising in civil work in the County Court requires an urgent remedy according to Lord Justice Briggs’ report.

Number of Courts and Future of the Divisions

There should be no general unification of the civil courts but the time has come for a decision about the future of the Divisions. Such a decision goes beyond the confines of the civil courts and is acknowledged to be outwith the scope of the review.

In relation to the civil courts a number of options are outlined but with the proviso that no change should undermine the identity or international reputation of the Commercial Court.

District Registries and Regional High Court Trial Centres

The concept of the District Registry as a place for the issue of High Court proceedings will eventually be replaced by a single portal for the issue of all civil proceedings. In the meantime, the number of issuing District Registries should be confined to the regional centres which manage and try High Court cases. 

Routes of Appeal

There should in due course be a review of the question whether the recent reforms to the procedure of the Court of Appeal should be extended to cover appeals to the High Court and to Circuit Judges in the County Court, based upon better time and motion evidence than is presently available. In the meantime, any recommendations were considered to be premature.

Boundaries between Jurisdictions

The Family Court should be given a shared jurisdiction (with the Chancery Division and the County Court) for dealing with Inheritance Act claims and disputes about co-ownership of property.

The proposals on flexible transfer between the Property Chamber of the First Tier Tribunal and the civil courts set out in the May 2016 Report to the Civil Justice Council are endorsed.    


At some 298 pages long and 12 months in the making, Briggs is the most significant report on the structure of civil justice in recent times. What does it mean for practitioners and litigants? It is simply too early to say. As Lord Justice Briggs notes in signing off ‘It is for others to decide which of the above recommendations should be implemented, and by what means’.

However the Online Court, perhaps the most controversial of all the proposals, is already being planned by HMCTS and the MoJ and is the subject matter of a specific work project. With the endorsement of Lord Justice Briggs and many other stakeholders, that proposal seems very likely to eventuate.

One thing is certain: civil litigation is changing. At what cost to justice remains altogether less clear.



Bryan Patterson-Whitaker


Pupil Barrister