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NEW measures to speed up the civil courts system comes into force on Monday.

Lord Irvine's Civil Justice Reforms, which will affect all 226 county courts in England and Wales, represents the biggest shake-up of the civil courts for a century.

The changes include a pounds 5,000 limit for people making small claims, fast tracking of most cases between pounds 5,000 and pounds 15,000, tighter con-trols on the use of expert witnesses and new terminology.

And it means words such as writ and plaintiff will be replaced by simpler English and words like claim form and claimant. People will also be able to claim compensation if courts are not ready to deal with cases in time and have the chance to settle claims without re-sorting to litigation.

A Court Service spokesman said: ''The reforms are necessary to improve access to justice by making the civil system less confusing, cheaper and quicker.''

But there are fears that lawyers will start ''cherry picking'' cases they have a good chance of winning or those that will run smoothly. Coventry solicitor Phil Townshend said if the reforms work they will be a tremendous success, but if they fail , they will do so miserably.

Mr Townsend said he is seriously considering not taking on any more civil work in the light of the new reforms.

The partner in Charvill Towns-hend, said: ''It could turn out to be a nightmare.

"It is a serious concern of lawyers and court staff that courts will be over-loaded with cases without enough judges to try them.

''The reforms are meant to bring about quick justice, but they could cause massive disruption. He said some solicitors will withdraw from civil work.

''I suspect there will be no more than 12 firms in Coventry doing this sort of work in two or three years from now.

''There is the saying 'Justice delayed is justice denied', but this could be a case where justice hurried is justice avoided.''

A spokesman for Warwickshire Law Society said: ''The overriding objective of the new rules is to ensure that parties are on an equal footing, costs are saved and that cases are dealt with expeditiously and fairly.''

All county courts in Coventry and Warwickshire will close tomorrow to allow staff to make preparations for the new procedures and re-open Monday.

Information about the reforms can be obtained from the Lord Chancellor's Department on www.

Out with the old and in with the new

NEW words for those using the civil courts:

Plaintiff becomes claimant, writ - claim form, pleading - statement of case, statement of claim or points of - particulars of claim, summons or motion - application, interrogatories and further and better particulars - requests for information, discovery - disclosure, leave of the court - permission of the court, minor/infant - child, in camera or in chambers - in private, next friend or guardian ad litern - litigation friend, payment into court - Part 36 payment, subpoena - witness summons, taxation of costs - assessment of costs, taxing master - costs judge, Anton Piller order - search order, Mareva injunction - freezing injunction, inter partes - on notice, originating summons - alternative procedure, and ex parte - without notice
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Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Taylor, Ernest
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Apr 22, 1999
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