The Association of Consumer Support Organisations (ACSO) has responded to the Civil Justice Council's (CJC) consultation on Pre-Action Protocols (PAPs).
Matthew Maxwell Scott, Executive Director at ACSO, said "we welcome the CJC's commitment to review all civil-justice PAPs, specifically with a view to canvassing opinion on areas of potential improvement. We advocate increasing the clarity and accessibility of our civil-justice framework as doing so provides a pathway to faster, more efficient and more reliable justice and increasing overall confidence in the system. Each step in the process has its own part to play in removing friction from the whole journey, and so this review of the relatively new rules around pre-action behaviours is vital.
We consider the use of PAPs to define a pre-litigation journey and promote early inter-party correspondence, responses to claims or cases with justification, effective disclosure, ADR and early negotiation to be very positive. We recommend that fair PAPs should be mandatory in cases where it is useful and justified. Conversely, mandatory PAPs will often not be justified in an urgent matter or one that is so exceptional or complex that existing PAPs would hinder the access to justice of either party.
Regarding the use of technology and online portals, appropriate, simple and effective mechanisms for pre-action casework can only work to benefit the positive intentions of PAPs. This is particularly the case where that technology promotes and progresses access to justice, affordability, early rehabilitation, ADR and thorough, complete and speedy evidence gathering. Furthermore, we agree that it would be in the consumer interest to promote inter-connectivity between the portal processes and the court's case systems, which should work to speed up litigation, provide the court a better visibility on party evidence and reduce the environmental cost of court proceedings."
Maxwell Scott also stresses that "more clarity must also be provided around foreign accident cases, particularly after the legal effects of 'Brexit' and the current lack of UK accession to the Lugano Convention. Establishing a working group would be a sensible way to begin talks on how that clarity is best provided to consumers.
Overall, ACSO supports the review of civil justice PAPs, and celebrates the CJC emphasis on consolidation, simplification and strengthening. We hope that changes implemented from this review will have a significantly positive effect on access to justice."
ACSO members can download the full submission from the members' area of the website.