The Court of Appeal is struggling to cope with its current workload. The result is a serious shortfall of judicial time, and a backlog of cases. To combat this problem, in May 2016 the Civil Procedure Rules Committee published a consultation on reforming the process of making an appeal to the Court of Appeal. The consultation document proposes a number of reforms:
- Raising the test for granting permission to appeal from ‘real prospect of success’ to ‘substantial prospect of success’;
- Removing the right of oral renewal for applications for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal, but with a requirement that the reviewing judge call the application in for an oral hearing if they decide it cannot be fairly decided on the papers;
- Removing the automatic right to an oral hearing for reconsideration of decisions made on other applications during Court of Appeal proceedings, again with a power for the court to hold an oral hearing if required;
- Amendment of Practice Direction 52C to make it more user-friendly for litigants and assist in limiting the volumes of documentation placed before the Court of Appeal.
JUSTICE agrees that these reforms are necessary in order to reduce the Court of Appeal’s workload, thereby enabling it to deliver timely and effective justice. Justice delayed is justice denied. In the context of a justice system under strain due to cuts to legal aid and state retrenchment, the Court of Appeal must maximise access to justice for as many litigants as possible. These reforms will help it to do so.
JUSTICE emphasises that the impacts of any reform, specifically in the context of access to justice, must be monitored and subject to ongoing evaluation.
We also re-iterate our continued commitment to a properly funded justice system. Whilst we recognise that the extreme pressure currently being placed on the Court of Appeal demands reform, we emphasise that there is no substitute for adequate resourcing, and an increase in the court’s judging capacity.