Retiring costs guru blasts ‘swingeing cuts’ to legal aid

Lord Justice Jackson condemned the government’s legal aid cuts in his final speech before retiring on his 70th birthday.

The judge, who has been the architect of major civil litigation reforms, said ‘I regret and deplore’ the cuts that were introduced in the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, the same Act as his costs reforms.

In a speech to the Cambridge Law Faculty, 'Was it worth it?', Jackson LJ said that ‘most unfortunately’ the recommendation in his final report on civil justice reform of ‘the vital necessity of making no further cutbacks’ in legal aid availability or eligibility had not been heeded by ministers. ‘Likewise, my plea for restraint in setting court fees has fallen on deaf ears,’ he said.

Jackson LJ’s reform ended the recoverability of success fees and after the event insurance premiums, introduced case management reforms and the joint use of experts. He also recommended the ban on referral fees in personal injury claims.

He told his audience that spending ten years reforming the procedure rules to reduce litigation costs was ‘about as unglamorous as it gets’ and accepted that lawyers did not love him for his work. Lawyers, he said, ‘generally don’t like change and they particularly dislike anyone meddling with costs’.

The Lord Justice concluded that while ‘many of the causes of excessive costs have been eliminated and significant improvements have been made in the litigation process’ costs were ‘still too high’.

He will return to his old chambers as an arbitrator and adjudicator, and will also join the new commercial court in Kazakhstan.

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