Consultative Document on Scale Costs

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County Court Rules Committee
Consultative Document on
Scale Costs
An Initial Integrated Impact Assessment
serving the community through the administration of justice
Document Details
Version:
Date issued:
Document Authors:
1
July 2011
County Court Rules
Committee Secretariat
Contents
Executive Summary
1.
Introduction
2.
Background
3.
Overview of Proposals
4.
Screening the Policy
5.
How to Respond
Appendix 1 – County Court Rules Committee
Appendix 2 – Proposed New Scales
Appendix 3 – Impact Table
Appendix 4 – Comparative Table of Costs
Appendix 5 – Equality Screening Form
Appendix 6 – Consultees
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INITIAL INTEGRATED IMPACT ASSESSMENT
1.
Introduction
1.1
This document seeks views on the impact of County Court Rules Committee
proposals to align scale costs with the forthcoming revised jurisdiction of the
county court and to implement a two staged increase of costs in line with
inflation. Prepared by the secretariat to the Committee, it accompanies the
consultation on proposals and is designed to help consultees assess the
impact of them.
1.2
The Department of Justice has decided to increase the general financial
jurisdiction of the county courts from £15,000 to £30,000. In furtherance of its
statutory duty, the County Court Rules Committee has considered the
manner of awarding costs for matters falling within the new jurisdictional
limit. The Committee has also reviewed scales for matters within the current
jurisdictional limit of £15,000, which were last amended in 2007. Proposals
made following that review are detailed in a consultation published
separately from this document. The overriding objectives of the proposals
are to:

provide fair and reasonable remuneration for proceedings falling within
the jurisdictional limits of the county courts; and

ensure that the benefits of enhancing access to the local, convenient,
less complex and more affordable county court system are realised.
1.3
The Committee recognises that impact assessments form an essential
component of policy making and a sound basis on which to review existing
policy. This impact assessment, which follows the guidance included in
policy toolkit of the Office of the First Minster and deputy First Minister, is an
integrated initial consultation stage impact assessment and considers the
costs and benefits of Committee proposals and other available options. It is
intended to assist with an assessment of whether the intended objectives will
be achieved through the consideration of both qualitative and quantitative
evidence.
1.4
It is likely that the proposals will affect:

Court Users: The proposals arise as a consequence of the policy of
increasing county court jurisdiction which has been brought forward to:
o
ensure the more efficient distribution and disposal of civil business
by better aligning the volume and type of cases with available
court and judicial resource; and
o
enhance access, for the benefit of court users, to local and
convenient courts which are less complex procedurally and in
which it is cheaper to litigate than the High Court.
The manner in which the County Court Rules Committee addresses the
consequences of that proposal for costs will impact on the degree to
which anticipated benefits for court users will be realised. The
extension of the scale cost system is not only likely to provide cheaper
access to justice but also a certainty about the cost of entering into
litigation which would not be present under a taxation system. Similarly,
the level of costs set, and any decision to uplift scales in line with
COUNTY COURT SCALE COSTS
3



1.5
inflation, will impact directly on the litigants required to meet costs and
could potentially, if prohibitively expensive, impact on access to justice.
Others Paying Court Costs including Insurers: As with litigants, the
extension of the scale cost system is likely to generate savings and a
certainty about the cost of entering into litigation which would not be
present under a taxation system. Again, the level of costs set, and any
decision to implement an inflationary rise, will impact directly on those
paying costs and may indirectly affect access to justice.
Legal Profession: The extension of scale costs to the new upper
jurisdictional limit of the county court would provide greater certainty to
the profession as to income arising from litigation valued between the
existing and new jurisdictional limits. It should also facilitate the prompt
receipt of payments which might otherwise be delayed under a taxation
system. As with the others impacted by the proposal, the level of costs
set, and any decision made regarding an inflationary increase will have
a direct financial impact on the profession.
Taxing Master: Matters valued above £15,000 are currently within the
remit of the Taxing Master. Continuance of that practice for county
court proceedings between £15,000 and £30,000 is unlikely to impact
on workload. The extension of the scale costs system to the new upper
jurisdictional limit is however likely to reduce the number of applications
before the Master.
Responses to this consultation will help inform final proposals. Please
respond by 30 September 2011 to:
Email:
[email protected]
Post:
Secretariat to the County Court Rules Committee
Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service
Laganside House
23 – 27 Oxford Street
Belfast
BT1 3LA
Tel:
028 90418956
Fax:
028 90728944
Textphone: 028 90142920
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INITIAL INTEGRATED IMPACT ASSESSMENT
2.
Background
2.1
Following a public consultation on increasing the jurisdictional limits of the
county courts in Northern Ireland, the Department of Justice 1 announced the
intention to increase county court jurisdiction from £15,000 - £30,000.
2.2
The legal costs payable to a successful party in the county court are set out
in Appendix 2 to the County Court (Northern Ireland) Rules 1981 in a fixed
scale up to the current jurisdictional limit of £15,000 2 . The scales are set out
in bands related to the value of the case. Costs for matters valued above
£15,000, which are currently heard in the High Court, are set differently,
being either subject to agreement between the parties or assessment by the
Taxing Master, who decides what constitutes fair and reasonable
remuneration based on an hourly rate determined by him (presently £100).
2.3
The proposal to increase the jurisdiction of the county court to £30,000
requires that the manner of awarding costs for matters which will fall within
that limit to be considered by the County Courts Rules Committee 3 , which,
by virtue of Articles 47 and 48 of the County Courts (Northern Ireland) Order
1980, and section 21(1) and (2) of the Interpretation Act (Northern Ireland)
1954, is responsible for making rules specifying the costs applicable to
proceedings before the county court 4 . The Committee has developed
proposals and is consulting on them.
2.4
In setting costs, the Committee is responsible for ensuring access to justice
and the availability of appropriate professional representation for litigants by
providing a cost structure which represents fair and reasonable
remuneration. The Committee has therefore also reviewed and proposed
amendments to existing scales which were last amended in line with inflation
in 2007. The Committee’s consultation has also asked for views on that
issue.
2.5
In addition to the matters detailed above, the Rules Committee is also
consulting on a number of miscellaneous issues. As those matters are
largely contingent on the overall approach to the costs system, this impact
consultation is concerned only with the two key recommendations of the
Committee:

to insert three additional bands into existing scales to specify costs for
matters up to the new jurisdictional limit of £30,000; and

to increase scales in line with inflation.
1
The power to amend jurisdictional limits is exercisable by statutory rule under Article 22 of the County Courts
(Northern Ireland) Order 1980.
2
SR 1981 No. 225.
3
Membership of the Committee is prescribed by Article 46 of the County Courts (Northern Ireland) Order 1980
- Appendix 1.
4
Rules made by the Committee are subject to allowance by the Department of Justice which may only be given
after consultation with the Lord Chief Justice.
COUNTY COURT SCALE COSTS
5
3.
Overview of Proposals
Approach to Costs
3.1
The Committee proposes to maintain and build on the existing structure for
the payment of costs in the county court and to increase the scales in line
with the new jurisdictional limit by inserting three additional bands:

£15,000 - £20,000

£20,000 - £25,000

£25,000 - £30,000.
3.2
The insertion of bands at intervals of £5,000 is proposed to provide certainty
to parties to litigation and is made in recognition of the merits of the existing
approach to costs, which has long been perceived as a positive attribute of
the county court system for all those involved in litigation. In adopting that
approach, the Committee is acknowledging that one of the benefits of the
proposed increase in jurisdictional limits is enhanced access to the more
straightforward procedures applicable in the county courts to which it is
committed to retaining.
3.3
The proposed new scales are set out at Appendix 2.
3.4
There is no statutory provision or formula governing the setting of scale
costs. However, in designing the new scales the Committee has, in line with
the approach endorsed by the Civil Justice Reform Group, 5 taken the view
that it should ensure costs are fair and reasonable. In setting the proposed
scales the Committee has also applied the principles established during its
2001 fundamental review of the costs system, that is:

that professional services require a fair and reasonable return for
work done;

the assessment of fair and reasonable remuneration requires
consideration of rates which would be applicable if cases were subject
to taxation;

if scales fees prescribed for England and Wales are considered, it is
important to ensure the work to which those fees apply is comparable,
and in that regard, it must be noted that fast track costs operate on a
different premise and for a different purpose than county court scale
costs;

the civil justice system is less expensive than that in England and
Wales and the Civil Justice Reform Group expected that advantage to
5
The Civil Justice Reform Group was established by the Lord Chancellor on 21 February 1998 to make
recommendations for the reform of the civil justice system with the objective of making it as accessible,
economic and efficient as possible. In it’s report of June 2001, the Group recommended that when conducting
a review of costs, the Rules Committee should have regard to any similar scales prescribed for England and
Wales; the need for professional services to be remunerated on a fair and reasonable basis; and the need to
ensure that litigation is conducted efficiently and economically.
6
INITIAL INTEGRATED IMPACT ASSESSMENT

be maintained and the Rules Committee to be alert to the need to
keep the cost of litigation as economical as possible, consistent with
the need to ensure professional services are properly remunerated;
and
the principle that there should be a measure of proportionality
between the costs and the amounts awarded should be maintained.
3.5
The Rules Committee has also based the new scales on the premise that
the swings and roundabouts principle should continue to apply. The
Committee considers that principle to be fundamental to the scale cost
system as, by their very nature, scales cannot provide for the circumstances
of every individual case, which can vary significantly.
3.6
In setting the new scales, the Committee has taken comparable costs
systems into account including costs awarded for similar value cases in
England and Wales, costs on taxation, and the Belfast Solicitors’
Association, Motor Insurers, and Comerton scales. The Committee also
considered Crown and Departmental Solicitors scales (noting that they do
not make provision for profit costs). In applying the scales considered to the
proposed new bands, the Committee noted a degree of uniformity in the
acknowledgement of the elements of time and complexity in cases valued
above £15,000. Notwithstanding that matters valued above that limit are
more likely to generate complex issues, the Committee is minded that costs
in the new scales should reflect the more straightforward procedures
applicable in the county court.
3.7
The Committee’s approach to establishing fair and reasonable remuneration
in respect of the three new bands was to identify the mid-point on existing
scales for High Court proceedings, establish an average, and then to reduce
that figure to take account of the simpler procedures applicable in the county
court. In setting counsel’s costs, account has been taken of the existing
scale for High Court proceedings and the need to balance any reduction
made in recognition of simpler county court processes against the fact that
junior counsel will have sole carriage of cases within the new bands. The
Committee believes that the new scales safeguard against disproportionate
costs and provide a civil justice system less expensive than England and
Wales in line with the guiding principles established during the 2001
fundamental review and the recommendations of the Civil Justice Review
Group.
Inflation
3.8
The Committee also proposes to increase scales in line with inflation as
determined by the GDP deflator. It proposes, however, that the increase
should be staged over a 2 year period. The scales at Appendix 2 reflect that
proposition.
3.9
An increase is proposed in recognition that an inflationary rise has not been
applied to the scales since 2007, and, in consequence, the legal profession
has effectively faced a pay freeze for work done in the county court. In
COUNTY COURT SCALE COSTS
7
considering an inflationary increase, the Committee was mindful of the
potential impact of immediate full implementation on those responsible for
paying costs, and, whilst it recognises that any delay in implementation will
reduce the value of the increase, the Committee believes that phased
implementation over a two year period balances those two legitimate but
competing concerns.
Stakeholder Engagement
3.10
Committee proposals have been informed by the responses to a paper
issued on 23rd March 2011 6 to which it received 14 replies 7 . Final proposals
will be informed by responses to this consultation.
6
Copies of the initial paper can be obtained from the Rules Committee Secretariat at the address noted at the
start of this document.
7
64% of responses were from the legal profession (4 responses from solicitors’ associations, 3 from
representative organisations for lawyers generally and 2 from the Bar or representative organisation of the Bar).
3 respondents were from the Insurers Industry (21%) and 2 other responses were received from the public.
8
INITIAL INTEGRATED IMPACT ASSESSMENT
4.
4.1
Screening the Policy
This is an initial integrated impact assessment which attempts to assess
impact across the range of issues identified in screening guidelines. There
are some areas in which comment is considered appropriate. They are
outlined below. Otherwise, consultees will wish to refer to the impact table at
Appendix 3.
Options – Approach to Costs
Option 1 – Do Nothing
4.2
Impact assessment and Green Book guidance require that all options be
assessed relative to a common base. The base case for this assessment
has been assumed as do nothing.
4.3
Costs for matters within the jurisdiction of the county court are prescribed in
scales set out in Appendix 2 to the County Court (Northern Ireland) Rules
1981 up to the current jurisdictional limit of £15,000. Matters above £15,000
are currently subject to taxation, but that process is governed by procedural
rules for the High Court under Order 62 of the Rules of the Court of
Judicature (Northern Ireland) 1980 8 . Moving proceedings valued between
£15,000 to £30,000 within the remit of the county court creates void in
provision for costs which, by virtue of Articles 47 and 48 of the County
Courts (Northern Ireland) Order 1980, and section 21(1) and (2) of the
Interpretation Act (Northern Ireland) 1954, the County Court Rules
Committee is statutorily required to address. Given the commitment of the
Department of Justice to realign the business of the civil courts to:

ensure the appropriate and effective use of judicial and court
resource; and

enhance access to justice by uplifting the financial remit of the less
expensive, local, convenient county courts;
doing nothing is not viable. Failure to make provision for proceedings valued
between £15,000 and £30,000 would inhibit implementation of the increase
in jurisdiction which has already been subject to public consultation and
which was widely supported by respondents. The two impact assessments
of proposals to increase county court jurisdiction anticipated monetary and
non-monetary benefits. Although the policy was not found to generate
substantial monetary savings, both direct financial benefits and efficiency
gains arising from the effective allocation of resources and litigants enjoying
improved access to justice would be lost if provision is not made for costs
within the new jurisdiction.
8
SR 1980 No.346
COUNTY COURT SCALE COSTS
9
Option 2 – Increasing Scale Costs
4.4
4.5
One option for addressing the manner of awarding costs for proceedings
valued between the current and new jurisdictions of the county court is to
build on the existing structure and increase the scales through the insertion
of additional bands.
Benefits
The scale cost system has long been regarded as a positive attribute of the
county court system as it provides certainty, for the benefit of all parties, as
to the cost of the litigation. Proceedings below £30,000 are currently heard
in the High Court for which there are no agreed scales. The insertion of new
scales up to the revised jurisdictional limit would provide a clarity previously
absent from cases valued between £15,000 and £30,000 as both plaintiff
and defendant would know with certainty the financial implications of
commencing and defending proceedings. In conjunction with the increased
jurisdictional limit, that would mean the vast majority of civil litigants in
Northern Ireland would be able to assess the financial risks of litigation.
Based on 2009 judicial statistics, it is estimated that 1500 cases would move
from the High Court to the county court when the jurisdiction of the latter
court increases. The extension of scale costs to the new £30,000 limit would
provide clarity as to costs for all those additional litigants. The profession
would also have greater clarity as to the income for lawyers arising from
those cases.
4.6
The extension of scale costs would enhance a system which already
compares favourably with that applicable in England and Wales which has
been the subject to some criticism. The Jackson Review of civil litigation in
England and Wales considered the limited application of the fast track
system and the issue of disproportionate costs. 9 The Review recommended
that fixed costs should be set for fast track cases up to the value of £25,000
and that a costs council should be established to review fixed costs and
lawyers’ hourly rates annually so as to ensure that they are fair to both
lawyers and clients. The application of those recommendations to Northern
Ireland would endorse the extension of the scale cost system to the new
jurisdictional limit of £30,000.
4.7
Matters valued between £15,000 and £30,000 are currently subject to
taxation. It is anticipated that providing for such matters to be now subject to
the scale cost system would facilitate, for the benefit of the profession, the
prompt receipt of payments which might otherwise be delayed by taxation.
Reducing the number of cases subject to taxation may also facilitate
speedier progression of matters remaining within the remit of the Taxing
Master. Savings would also arise as the cost of submitting a matter for
taxation is payable by the losing party. Extending the scale cost system
rather than applying taxation to the increased jurisdictional limit would also
9
Published on 14 January 2010.
10
INITIAL INTEGRATED IMPACT ASSESSMENT
eliminate any potential confusion which might arise from the operation of two
separate cost systems within one court tier.
4.8
4.9
Costs
Only marginal implementation costs arise from the enhancement of the scale
cost system (a small one off cost would be incurred by the Department in
publishing the rules outlining the new scales) 10 . However such a cost would
be incurred irrespective of the cost system adopted by the Committee. No
major investment costs arise for practitioners from the proposal to increase
scale costs. Members of the legal profession may incur expenditure in
implementing changes to their systems but these are likely to be minimal.
A reduction in income for the Department is also to be anticipated if matters
valued between £15,000 and £30,000 are subject to scale costs rather than
taxation. That cost must, however, be considered in the context of the
benefits to litigants who would save on taxation costs, a consideration which
is particularly pertinent in the current challenging economic environment.
The anticipated reduction in income must also be weighted against the
overall objectives of the policy of increasing county court jurisdiction, as that
proposal was made with the intention of improving access to justice by
enhancing access to the lower cost and more convenient county court
system.
Option 3 – Taxation
4.10
4.11
Taxation provides a further means of awarding costs for proceedings in the
county court valued between £15,000 and £30,000.
Benefits
Matters up to the new jurisdictional limit of the county court are already
subject to taxation and it is recognised that there are benefits in maintaining
the status quo. However, providing for matters within the new jurisdictional
limit of the court to be subject to taxation would run contrary to proposals for
change in other jurisdictions which recognise the merits of a fixed cost
system and would detract from what is perceived to be a significant benefit
of the current county court system.
4.12
Taxation does, however, allow for the assessment of cases on an individual
basis. The scale cost system does not facilitate the consideration of the
individual circumstances of cases which can vary significantly, although the
application of the swings and roundabouts principle goes someway to
addressing that disadvantage.
4.13
Providing for the taxation of matters within the new upper limit of the county
court will also mean the continued enjoyment of income arising from taxation
as the preparation of bills for taxation are payable by the losing party.
10
On average, less than £400.
COUNTY COURT SCALE COSTS
11
4.14
4.15
Costs
Marginal implementation costs would arise from the extension of the taxation
system to proceedings valued between £15,000 and £30,000 in the county
court (a small one off cost would be incurred by the Department in publishing
the rules outlining the new scales) 11 . However such a cost would be incurred
irrespective of the cost system adopted.
The operation of a taxation system would also mean that litigants would
continue to bear the cost of taxation. This is an important consideration in
the current economic climate and undermines one of the policy objectives of
the proposal to increase county court jurisdiction which was to improve
access to justice by enhancing access to the lower cost county court system.
Preferred Option
4.16
Extending scale costs up to the new jurisdictional limit was endorsed by the
majority of respondents to the County Court Rules Committee initial
engagement with stakeholders and is the preferred option of the Committee.
Options – Level of Scales
Option 1 – Do Nothing
4.17
A do nothing base line is not applicable when considering the level of costs
which might be applied if the scale cost system is uplifted to the new
jurisdictional limit of the county court. Matters between £15,000 and £30,000
are currently within the jurisdiction of the High Court and whilst there are a
number of scales applicable to proceedings before that court (costs on
taxation, Belfast Solicitors’ Association, Motor Insurers, Comerton,
Departmental Solicitor’s and Crown Solicitor’s scales), there is currently no
agreed scale.
Option 2 – Establish Scales In Line With Existing Costs
4.18
4.19
11
One option available to the Rules Committee in designing new scales is to
replicate those which currently apply to proceedings before the High Court.
Benefits
Scale costs recognise that the value of a claim can be used as a means of
measuring its importance to parties and consequently of the level of legal
representation expected. It is not intended that the effectiveness of
representation provided to litigants would be affected by the change in the
court tier in which applications are listed (although it is noted that senior
counsel are less likely to be involved). There is, therefore, benefit in
designing scales approximate to those which currently apply to proceedings
On average, less than £400.
12
INITIAL INTEGRATED IMPACT ASSESSMENT
before the High Court, or an average thereof (a comparative table of costs
within the current scales is attached at Appendix 4).
4.20
4.21
Establishing scales for the upper jurisdictional limits which are comparable to
those which currently apply to High Court applications is beneficial in
ensuring the income of the profession is not negatively impacted by the
change in court tier in which they are providing representation. Litigants
would therefore enjoy access to local convenient courts but at no extra cost.
Costs
A policy intent of the proposal to increase county court jurisdiction was to
enhance access to the cheaper county court system. If new scales reflected
the current levels of remuneration for matters before the High Court, that
policy intention would not be achieved. As the comparative table at Appendix
4 illustrates, depending on the value of the claim, that could represent an
average cost to litigants of £1400.00, £1300.00 and £1455.00 in respect of
solicitors costs for matters valued at £16,000, £21,000 and £26,000,
respectively.
Option 3 – Establish Scales Specific to the County Court Proceedings
4.22
A further option available to the Committee is to develop scales specific to
matters falling within the revised jurisdiction of the county court, taking into
account the existing scales, but discounting allowances made within them for
those elements of time and complexity which are not present within the more
straight forward procedures of the county court system.
4.23
The consultation outlines the proposal to establish fair and reasonable
remuneration for solicitor’s by identifying the mid-point on existing scales for
High Court proceedings, establishing an average and then to reducing that
figure to take account of simpler county court practices. In setting counsel’s
costs, it is proposed to take account of the existing Comerton scale for High
Court proceedings and the need to balance any reduction made to take
account of simpler county court processes against the fact that junior
counsel will have sole carriage of cases within the new bands.
4.24
Benefits
Establishing a new scale rather than applying existing costs means that the
specific facets of county court proceedings can be properly taken into
account in determining fair, reasonable and commensurate remuneration
which represents value for money for clients. Establishing new scales
therefore safeguards against disproportionate costs arising. New scales
which reflect the less complex procedure of the county court realise the
objectives of the policy of increasing county court jurisdiction by providing
access to a cheaper system. As the comparative table at Appendix 4
illustrates, potential savings of £1400.00, £1300.00 and £1455.00 could be
generated in respect of solicitor’s costs and £29.00, £45.00 and £23.00 in
respect of counsel’s costs for matters valued at £16,000, £21,000 and
£26,000, respectively. Such savings are an important consideration in the
current economic environment. Such scales would also ensure the continued
COUNTY COURT SCALE COSTS
13
operation of a civil justice system which is less expensive than that in
England and Wales in line with the guiding principles established during the
Rules Committee’s 2001 fundamental review of the costs system and the
recommendations of the Civil Justice Review Group.
4.25
Costs
Not aligning costs with those applicable to proceedings before the High
Court could result in a reduction in income for the profession. That
disadvantage may, however, be outweighed by the greater certainty as to
income which arises from replacing a taxation system with fixed costs and
the prompt receipt of payments which might otherwise be delayed by
taxation. It should also be noted that, as the county court system is much
less complex and quicker than the High Court, the realignment of civil
business could potentially increase capacity to progress other matters and
therefore could also potentially increase income.
Preferred Option
4.26
The majority of respondents to the County Court Rules Committees initial
stakeholder paper endorsed the setting of scales which specifically take
account of the unique attributes of the system rather than applying scales
applicable to the High Court and it remains the preferred option of the
Committee.
Options - Inflation
Option 1 – Do Nothing
4.27
4.28
14
The base case for the assessment of an inflationary rise has also been
assumed as do nothing.
Benefits
County court scale costs were last amended in line with inflation in 2007 by
the County Court (Amendment) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2007 which came
into operation on 7th January 2008 and which took account of inflation
between April 2006 and June 2007. In the absence of an uplift in the
intervening period, the legal profession have effectively faced a pay freeze
for work done and have subsumed increasing costs in respect of the cases
issued and settled. In the context of the current economic climate and the
challenges faced by all sectors of the community that situation has
undoubtedly benefited those required to pay costs. The rate of inflation
between June 2007 and March 2011 has been calculated as 9.85%. Based
on judicial statistics for 2009, the county and District Judges disposed of
approximately 11,000 civil bills that year. A 9.85% inflationary reduction
therefore represents a substantive saving to litigants. Statistics also indicate
that approximately 1500 cases will move from the High Court to the county
court when the jurisdiction of the latter court increases, a decision not to
implement an inflationary increase now, would therefore further enhance
savings.
INITIAL INTEGRATED IMPACT ASSESSMENT
4.29
Costs
Whilst continuing to maintain costs structures below the rate of inflation may,
at face value, be directly financially advantageous for litigants and others
responsible for paying costs, the absence of an inflationary rise decreases
the value of scales which are intended as means of providing fair and
reasonable remuneration. That diminution could indirectly impact on access
to justice for litigants if the profession do not consider that scales are
commensurate or that continuing to subsume costs is not financially viable.
Short term financial benefits for those responsible for paying costs must
therefore be weighted against the financial impact of those benefits on the
profession and overall operation of the system.
Option 2 – Increase Scale Costs by the Rate of Inflation
4.30
4.31
4.32
4.33
4.34
One option available is to increase scale costs by the rate of inflation.
Benefits
The current scale costs reflect inflation as at June 2007. The legal profession
have therefore effectively faced a pay freeze for work done and have
subsumed increasing costs in respect of the cases issued and settled since
that date. The absence of an inflationary rise could be perceived as
undermining the value of scales which are intended as means of providing
fair and reasonable remuneration and therefore the principles underscoring
the entire scale cost system. In contrast, by ensuring the value of the scales
does not diminish, an uplift in line with inflation would adhere to the guiding
principles established during the Rules Committee’s fundamental review of
scale costs in 2001 which were endorsed by the recommendations of the
Civil Justice Reform Group. An inflationary increase would ensure fair,
reasonable and commensurate remuneration continues to be provided.
The level of scale costs impacts on access to justice and the availability of
appropriate professional representation for litigants. Increasing scales in line
with inflation is likely to have a positive impact in that regard.
Costs
Increasing scale costs in line with inflation will have a direct financial impact
on litigants and others required to pay costs. As the comparative tables at
Appendix 2 illustrate, solicitors costs for matters valued between £5,001 and
£7,500 and £10,001 and £12,500 would be £198 and £249 more expensive
if a full inflationary increase were to be applied. Counsel costs for matters of
the same value would increase by £45 and £61, respectively. The impact of
those costs does, however, require to be balanced against the access to
justice considerations detailed above and the need to ensure the availability
of professional representation through the provision of commensurate costs.
The impact of increased costs also requires to be considered in the context
of the increases in costs subsumed by the legal profession during the period
when inflationary increases were not applied. An inflationary rise applied
now would not be retrospective in nature and increases in costs sustained by
COUNTY COURT SCALE COSTS
15
the profession for matters progressed since the last inflationary rise was
implemented in 2007 cannot be recovered.
4.35
The potential impact of an inflationary rise for those required to pay costs
should also be considered in the context of the reduction in expenditure
likely to arise from transfer of jurisdiction from the High Court to the county
court. The costs advocated by the County Court Rules Committee in respect
of matters falling between the current and new jurisdiction of the court are
lower than those currently applicable to proceedings before the High Court.
Savings made from the application of those scales have the potential to
mitigate against the impact of an inflationary rise.
Option 3 – Phased Increase Scale Costs by the Rate of Inflation
4.36
4.37
4.38
A further option is to phase an inflationary rise in scale costs.
Benefits
The benefits of an inflationary rise detailed above also apply to this option. It
also has, however, the additional benefit of mitigating against the impact of
an immediate inflationary rise on those required to pay costs. Phased
implementation recognises the financial challenges faced by all sectors of
the community and attempts to balance them against the need to ensure
scale costs provide fair and reasonable remuneration and are not devalued
by the absence of inflationary increases.
Costs
Costs for this option reflect those detailed at option 2. Phased
implementation also has the potential to devalue the increase which is
applied.
Preferred Option
4.39
The Committee is concerned about the impact the absence of an inflationary
increase to scale costs may have on the provision of fair, reasonable and
commensurate remuneration. The preferred approach of the Committee is
therefore to increase scale costs in line with inflation as determined by the
GDP deflator. However in recognition of the financial challenges faced by all
sectors of the community and the potential impact of an inflationary rise on
those required to pay costs, the Committee proposes that the increase
should be phased over a two year period. The scales detailed at Appendix 2
reflect that proposal. The Committee recognises that staged implementation
will devalue the increase to a certain extent, but believes that the approach
balances the competent and legitimate interests of all stakeholders.
4.40
The Committee’s preferred option does not include an inflationary increase
to travel costs provided under the scales. Whilst the Committee notes
concerns have been expressed in respect of increased expenditure for
travel, it recognises that this increase is faced by everyone in the community.
16
INITIAL INTEGRATED IMPACT ASSESSMENT
Other Issues
Legal Aid Impact
4.41
Initial engagement with stakeholders suggested Committee proposals to
increase costs in line with inflation could potentially impact on legally funded
cases which have traditionally been remunerated in line with the scale costs.
4.42
The number of legally aided civil actions has, however, declined in recent
years and the amount spent on county court personal injury cases has
reduced significantly since 2007/2008. Expenditure in 2009/2010 was 50%
of that in which arose in 2007/2008 and, on the basis of the spend to date for
the year 2010/2011, it appears that expenditure continues to reduce on a
year on year basis. 12 The figure spent by the Legal Services Commission
on counsels’ costs in the county court during 2009/2010 was less than
£65,000. County court litigation is therefore having a declining impact on the
legal aid budget (see below) and the implications of any decision to apply
scale cost rates, which is a matter for the discretion of the Commission, are
equally to be expected to have a reducing impact.
Jurisdictional Information
Certificates
Issues
County
Court (PI)
Cases with
claim on
Fund
County
Court (PI)
2006/07
2007/08
2008/09
2009/10
2010/11
ytd
605
788
561
464
585
2006/07
2007/08
2008/09
2009/10
2010/11
ytd
170
190
165
87
71
PI = Employer
liability; Neg General,
Tripping & RTA
Counsel
Counsel
VAT
Disbursements
£
95,706
£
12,645
£120,622
PI = Employer
liability; Neg General,
Tripping & RTA
2006/2007
Amounts
Paid from
Fund
County
Court (PI)
No of
Pymts
Sol
Costs
Sol
VAT
£
334,561
£
58,583
No of
Pymts
Sol
Costs
Sol
VAT
Counsel
Counsel
VAT
Disbursements
696
£403,641
£70,638
£115,060
£13,797
£143,758
£622,118
No of
Pymts
Sol
Costs
Sol
VAT
Counsel
Counsel
VAT
Disbursements
Total
£259,321
£43,923
£73,721
£8,936
£115,222
605
2007/08
Amounts
Paid from
Fund
County
Court (PI)
Total
2008/09
Amounts
Paid from
Fund
County
Court (PI)
12
604
£746,893
On the basis of provisional figures provided in January 2011.
COUNTY COURT SCALE COSTS
17
2009/10
Amounts
Paid from
Fund
County
Court (PI)
No of
Pymts
Sol
Costs
Sol
VAT
Counsel
Counsel
VAT
Disbursements
Total
632
£187,244
£30,076
£64,711
£8,145
£85,326
£501,124
No of
Pymts
Sol
Costs
Sol
VAT
Counsel
Counsel
VAT
Disbursements
Total
456
£146,972
£26,075
£40,904
£5,804
£53,294
£375,504
2010/11 ytd
Amounts
Paid from
Fund
County
Court (PI)
Total
£273,048
4.43
Impact on legal aid must also be considered in the context of the overall
impact of the proposal to increase county court jurisdiction which will result in
a significant number of cases (approximately 1500 13 ) moving from the High
Court to the county court and which, in turn, will reduce the number of cases
involving senior counsel and requiring taxation. A significant reduction in
costs of legal proceedings is therefore to be expected as a result of the
increase in county court jurisdiction. That reduction should mitigate against
the impact of the proposed inflationary rise as, when viewed in a package
rather than in isolation, proposals should provide value for money for all
court users and stakeholders.
Equality Impact
4.44
Committee proposals have been equality screened in compliance with
section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 14 which places a duty on public
authorities to promote equality of opportunity and good relations:

between person of different religious belief, political opinion, racial
group, age, marital status or sexual orientation;

between men and women generally;

between persons with a disability and persons without; and,

between persons with dependants and persons without.
Without prejudice to the obligations set out above, the authorities are also
required to:

have regard to the desirability of promoting good relations between
persons of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group; and

meet legislative obligations under the Disability Discrimination Order.
4.45
The statutory duty makes equality central to policy decision making and is
intended to contribute to better policy decisions being made, greater
transparency and allow equality issues to be effectively and efficiently
addressed. In line with those objectives, the secretariat to the County Court
Rules Committee has facilitated screening of the Committee’s proposals.
That screening indicated that a full equality impact assessment is not
required. A copy of the screening form is attached at Appendix 5.
13
14
Based on Judicial Statistics for 2009.
c.47
18
INITIAL INTEGRATED IMPACT ASSESSMENT
Competition Impact
4.46
The proposals assess the legal services market. The impact on competition
is difficult to assess but at this stage repercussions are not envisaged.
Further consideration will be given to developing formal competition
assessment during the consultative process and in light of the responses to
the consultation.
Small Firms’ Impact
4.47
The Small Firms impact test is a mandatory part of the impact assessment
process when a proposal imposes or reduces costs on business. A
significant number of legal firms fall within the category of small businesses.
A number of those required to pay costs could also be classified as small
firms. However, it is unclear at this stage what the impact may be. As noted
in the cost/benefit analysis detailed above, collectively the proposals may
operate in mitigation against negative impact arising from the
recommendations individually. Further assessment of particular impacts on
small firms and the likely costs and effects to their business will be made on
the basis of responses to the consultation.
Human Rights Impact
4.48
Under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights as set out in
Schedule 1 to the Human Rights Act 1998 15 everyone has a right to a fair
and public hearing. The overriding principles applied to proposals are to
ensure access to justice and professional representation through the
provision of fair, reasonable and commensurate remuneration. In that regard
the proposals are considered to be compliant with the Human Rights Act
1998.
Rural Impact
4.49
15
Rural proofing is recognised as a key element in policy development and
evaluation. The rural proofing exercise allows policies to be assessed at
design, development and review stages for their impact on rural
communities. One of the overall policy intentions of the proposal to increase
county court jurisdiction was to facilitate those living in rural areas by
transferring cases from Belfast, where the High Court is located, to 21
regional venues more easily accessible to those living outside Belfast.
Committee proposals in relation to costs are made in support of, and to allow
the implementation of, the change in jurisdiction. The initial assessment is
therefore that overall the proposals will have positive impact on litigants
residing in rural communities and firms of solicitors providing legal
assistance to those living rural areas.
c.42
COUNTY COURT SCALE COSTS
19
Environmental Impact
4.50
No direct impact for the environment arises from the proposals. However,
the proposals are made to support the implementation of the proposal to
increase the jurisdiction of the county courts which should result in a
reduction in the number of litigants, experts and legal representatives
required to travel to the High Court in Belfast and instead facilitate
attendance at local court venues (approximate estimates suggest an extra
1500 cases will be heard in local venues). It is therefore anticipated that, as
a package, proposals will have a minor positive impact on the environment.
Health Impact
4.51
Health impact assessments consider the effects of policies on health and
well being, and in particular, how they can reduce health inequalities. Initial
assessment suggests that no impacts on health arise from the proposals.
Enforcement and Sanctions
4.52
20
No sanction issues arise from the proposals. Once the consultation process
has been completed and proposals finalised, implementation will be effected
by way of statutory rule made by the County Court Rules Committee and
allowed by the Department after consulting the Lord Chief Justice.
INITIAL INTEGRATED IMPACT ASSESSMENT
5.
How to Respond
Responding
5.1
The final closing date for responses to this consultation is 30 September
2011.
5.2
Preferably responses should be submitted in the questionnaire which
accompanies this document and sent to:
Email:
[email protected]
Post:
Secretariat to the County Court Rules Committee
Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service
Laganside House
23 – 27 Oxford Street
Belfast
BT1 3LA
Tel:
028 90418956
Fax:
028 90728944
Textphone: 028 90142920
5.3
When responding, please state whether you are responding as an individual
or representing the view of an organisation. If responding on behalf of an
organisation, please make it clear who the organisation represents and
where applicable, how the views of members were assembled.
5.4
This consultation document is available at www.courtsni.gov.uk.
5.5
A list of consultees who have been notified about this consultation is
presented at Appendix 6.
Confidentiality
5.6
At the end of the consultation period copies of responses received by the
Committee may be made publicly available. The information they contain
may also be published in a summary of responses. If such a summary is
published, it will be made available on the Northern Ireland Courts and
Tribunals Service website. If you do not want all or part of your response or
name made public, please state this clearly in your response. Any
confidentiality disclaimer that may be generated by you or your
organisation’s IT system or included as a general statement in your fax cover
sheet, will be taken to apply only to information in your response for which
confidentiality has been specifically requested.
5.7
Any personal data which you provide will be handled in accordance with the
Data Protection Act 1998.
COUNTY COURT SCALE COSTS
21
5.8
You should also be aware that there may be circumstances in which the
Committee will be required to communicate information to third parties on
request, in order to comply with its obligations under the Freedom of
Information Act 2000.
5.9
Please contact the Secretariat to the County Court Rules Committee at the
above address to request copies of consultation responses. An
administrative charge may be made to cover photocopying of the responses
and postage costs.
Complaints
5.10
If you have any comments about the way this consultation has been
conducted, these should be sent to the Secretary to the Committee at the
above address.
Additional Copies
5.11
You may make copies of this document without seeking permission. If you
require further printed copies of the consultation document, we would invite
you to access the document through our website and make the copies
yourself. If you do not have access to the internet and require us to provide
you with further copes, please contact the Consultation Coordinator with
your specific request.
5.12
This document is available in alternative formats on request. Please contact
the Information Centre at the address above with your request.
What Happens Next?
5.13
We will aim to publish a summary of the views expressed by consultees and
the Committee’s response on the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals
Service website within three months of the end of the consultation period.
Publication of Results
5.14
Decisions taken in the light of the consultation shall be made public promptly
with a summary of the views expressed (subject to respondents’ requests for
confidentiality) and reasons for the decisions finally taken.
5.15
The information you send the Committee may need to be shared with
officials in the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service and/or
published in a summary of responses to this consultation. We will assume
that you are content for us to do this, and that if you are replying by email,
your consent overrides any confidentiality disclaimer that is generated by
your organisation’s IT system unless you specifically include a request to the
contrary in the main text of your submission to us.
22
INITIAL INTEGRATED IMPACT ASSESSMENT
Appendix 1 – County Court Rules Committee
County Courts (Northern Ireland) Order 1980
County Court Rules Committee
46.—(1) There shall be a committee known as the County Court Rules Committee (in
this Order referred to as “the Rules Committee”) which shall be appointed by the Lord
Chief Justice and shall consist of—
(a) three county court judges (of whom one shall be the chairman);
(b) two barristers-at-law;
(c) two solicitors;
(d) one District Judge;
(e) one chief clerk; and
(f) one other person.
(1A) The Lord Chief Justice must consult the Department of Justice before making an
appointment under paragraph (1)(b), (c), (e) or (f).
(2) Nothing done by the Rules Committee shall be invalid by reason only of a
vacancy among the members thereof.
(3) The Rules Committee shall have power to regulate its own quorum and
procedure.
(4) The secretary of the Rules Committee shall be such person as the Department of
Justice shall from time to time designate.
(5) The Rules Committee for the purpose of performing its functions may incur such
expenses as may be approved by the Department of Justice.
COUNTY COURT SCALE COSTS
23
Appendix 2 – Proposed New Scales
Comparative Table of Solicitors Costs
Inflation of 9.85% over 2 years (4.925% per year)
YEAR 1
Amount
Claimed
Existing
Scale Cost
Existing Cost plus
half of Inflation
increase at 9.85%
New Bands
£
£
£
£
517
542
1092
1,552
2,012
2,299
2,529
2,759
N/A
N/A
N/A
1145
1,628
2,111
2,412
2,654
2,895
N/A
N/A
N/A
Amount
Claimed
Existing
Scale Cost
Existing Cost plus
Inflation increase
at 9.85%
New Bands
£
£
£
£
517
568
1092
1,552
2,012
2,299
2,529
2,759
N/A
N/A
N/A
1200
1,705
2,210
2,525
2,778
3,031
N/A
N/A
N/A
Does not exceed
1,000
1,001 - 2,500
2,501 - 5,000
5,001 - 7,500
7,501 - 10,000
10,001 - 12,500
12,501 - 15,000
15,001 - 20,000
20,001 - 25,000
25,001 - 30,000
3,800
4,170
4,600
YEAR 2
Does not exceed
1,000
1,001 - 2,500
2,501 - 5,000
5,001 - 7,500
7,501 - 10,000
10,001 - 12,500
12,501 - 15,000
15,001 - 20,000
20,001 - 25,000
25,001 - 30,000
24
INITIAL INTEGRATED IMPACT ASSESSMENT
3,987
4,806
5,302
Comparative Table of Counsel’s Costs
Inflation of 9.85% over 2 years (4.925% per year)
YEAR 1
Amount
Claimed
Existing
Scale Cost
Existing Cost plus
half of Inflation
increase at 9.85%
New Bands
£
£
£
£
173
182
253
368
460
540
615
690
N/A
N/A
N/A
265
386
483
567
645
724
N/A
N/A
N/A
Amount
Claimed
Existing
Scale Cost
Existing Cost plus
Inflation increase
at 9.85%
New Bands
£
£
£
£
173
253
368
460
540
615
690
N/A
N/A
N/A
190
278
404
505
593
676
758
N/A
N/A
N/A
866
978
1,090
Does not exceed
1,000
1,001 - 2,500
2,501 - 5,000
5,001 - 7,500
7,501 - 10,000
10,001 - 12,500
12,501 - 15,000
15,001 - 20,000
20,001 - 25,000
25,001 - 30,000
825
934
1039
YEAR 2
Does not exceed
1,000
1,001 - 2,500
2,501 - 5,000
5,001 - 7,500
7,501 - 10,000
10,001 - 12,500
12,501 - 15,000
15,001 - 20,000
20,001 - 25,000
25,001 - 30,000
COUNTY COURT SCALE COSTS
25
Comparative Table of Plaintiff’s Solicitor’s Costs (excluding disbursements) –
Table 2 (21 day Costs)
Inflation of 9.85% over 2 years (4.925% per year)
YEAR 1
Amount
Claimed
Existing
Scale Cost
Existing
Cost plus
half of
Inflation
increase
at 9.85%
Amount
Claimed
New Bands
£
£
£
£
£
Does not exceed
500
501 - 1,000
1,001 - 2,000
2,001 - 3,000
3,001 - 4,000
4,001 - 5,000
5,001 - 6,000
6,001 - 7,000
7,001 - 8,000
8,001 - 9,000
9,001 - 10,000
10,001 - 12,500
12,501 - 15,000
15,001 - 20,000
20,001 - 25,000
25,001 - 30,000
26
Does not
exceed
76
120
150
172
187
208
232
253
273
289
305
331
366
N/A
N/A
N/A
79
126
157
180
196
218
243
265
286
303
320
347
384
N/A
N/A
N/A
INITIAL INTEGRATED IMPACT ASSESSMENT
1,000
102
5,000
187
10,000
283
15,000
20,000
25,000
30,000
365
431
488
555
YEAR 2
Amount
Claimed
Existing
Scale Cost
Existing Cost
plus half of
Inflation
increase at
9.85%
Amount
Claimed
New Bands
£
£
£
£
£
Does not
exceed
500
501 - 1,000
1,001 - 2,000
2,001 - 3,000
3,001 - 4,000
4,001 - 5,000
5,001 - 6,000
6,001 - 7,000
7,001 - 8,000
8,001 - 9,000
9,001 - 10,000
10,001 12,500
12,501 15,000
15,001 20,000
20,001 25,000
25,001 30,000
Does not
exceed
76
120
150
172
187
208
232
253
273
289
305
331
83
132
164
189
205
228
255
278
300
317
335
364
1,000
108
5,000
196
10,000
297
15,000
383
366
402
N/A
N/A
20,000
452
N/A
N/A
25,000
512
N/A
N/A
30,000
582
COUNTY COURT SCALE COSTS
27
Appendix 3 – Impact Table
IMPACT ON
SIGNIFICANT IMPACT(S)
COMMENTARY
CRIME IMPACT
No
The proposal should have
no impact on crime.
COMMUNITY SAFETY
No
The proposals should
have no impact on
Community Safety.
VICTIMS
No
The proposals should
have no impact on
Victims.
PUBLIC
EXPENDITURE/SERVICE
Yes
The proposals may have
minor impact on legal aid
expenditure.
28
INITIAL INTEGRATED IMPACT ASSESSMENT
Appendix 4 – Comparative Table of Costs
Comparative Table of Solicitors Costs (including proposed new bands)
Amount
Decreed
Proposed
New Bands
£16,000
£3800
£21,000
£26,000
£4170
£4600
Average
Cost
of a writ
issued in the
High Court
Insurers
Scale
(Motor) 16
Insurers
Scale
(Other) 16
Belfast
Solicitors
Association
(BSA) 17
Taxation
Ranges
£5200
£3900 +
12.5% =
£4200 +
12.5% =
£7595
£4,100
£4388
£4725
£4100 +
12.5% =
£4400 +
12.5% =
£8045
£4,300
£4613
£4950
£4350 +
12.5% =
£4650 +
12.5% =
£8495
£4,700 £5,600 18
£4894
£5231
£5470
£6055
Comparative Table of Counsel’s Costs
Amount
Decreed
£16,000
£21,000
£26,000
Proposed
New Scale Costs
£825
£934
£1039
Comerton Scale (5/6th of scale fee) 19
£854
£979
£1062
16
Insurers scale effective from 1st April 2007. Figures for £0-15,000 for trial excluded as they apply to cases
issued in the High Court. Figures are exclusive of counsel. There are add-ons – for example, if more than one
defendant – 10% for an additional defendant; 2.5% each up to 4 defendants; 25% uplift if counsel involved.
17
BSA scale – May 2009. Figures for £0-£14,999 for opening day of trial excluded as they apply to cases issued
in the High Court.
18
Does not include costs in respect of other time spent on the case and claimed separately (attendances at court,
interlocutory hearings, consultation with counsel, travel and waiting).
19
Comerton scale effective from 7 April 2008 – figures are for Junior Counsel where liability denied which is
5/6th of the scale fee. The scale fee is for Senior Counsel acting with a Junior. (Taxing Master usually applies
Comerton scale).
COUNTY COURT SCALE COSTS
29
Appendix 5 – Equality Screening
The Legal Background
Under section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, the Department is required to
have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity:
●
between person of different religious belief, political opinion, racial group,
age, marital status or sexual orientation;
●
between men and women generally;
●
between persons with a disability and persons without; and,
●
between persons with dependants and persons without1.
Without prejudice to the obligations set out above, the Department is also required to:
●
have regard to the desirability of promoting good relations between
persons of different religious belief, political opinion or racial
group; and
●
meet legislative obligations under the Disability Discrimination
Order.
Introduction
1.
This form should be read in conjunction with the Equality Commission’s
revised Section 75, “A Guide for Public Authorities” April 2010 and available
via the following link S75 Guide for Public Authorities April 2010. Staff should
complete a form for each new or revised policy for which they are
responsible (see page 6 for a definition of policy in respect of section
75).
2.
The purpose of screening is to identify those policies that are likely to have an
impact on equality of opportunity and/or good relations and so determine
whether an Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) is necessary. Screening
should be introduced at an early stage when developing or reviewing a policy.
1
A list of the main groups identified as being relevant to each of the section 75 categories is at Annex
A of the document.
30
INITIAL INTEGRATED IMPACT ASSESSMENT
3.
The lead role in the screening of a policy should be taken by the policy
decision-maker who has the authority to make changes to that policy and
should involve, in the screening process:




other relevant team members;
those who implement the policy;
staff members from other relevant work areas; and
key stakeholders.
4.
The first step in the screening exercise, is to gather evidence to inform the
screening decisions. Relevant data may be either quantitative or qualitative or
both (this helps to indicate whether or not there are likely equality of
opportunity and/or good relations impacts associated with a policy). Relevant
information will help to clearly demonstrate the reasons for a policy being
either ‘screened in’ for an equality impact assessment or ‘screened out’ from
an equality impact assessment.
5.
The absence of evidence does not indicate that there is no likely impact but if
none is available, it may be appropriate to consider subjecting the policy to an
EQIA.
6.
Screening provides an assessment of the likely impact, whether ‘minor’ or
‘major’, of its policy on equality of opportunity and/or good relations for the
relevant categories. In some instances, screening may identify the likely
impact is none.
7.
The Commission has developed a series of four questions, included in Part 2
of this screening form with supporting sub-questions, which should be applied
to all policies as part of the screening process. They identify those policies
that are likely to have an impact on equality of opportunity and/or good
relations.
Screening decisions
8.
Completion of screening should lead to one of the following three outcomes.
The policy has been:
i. ‘screened in’ for equality impact assessment;
ii. ‘screened out’ with mitigation or an alternative policy proposed to be
adopted; or
iii. ‘screened out’ without mitigation or an alternative policy proposed to be
adopted.
Screening and good relations duty
9.
The Commission recommends that a policy is ‘screened in’ for equality impact
assessment if the likely impact on good relations is ‘major’. While there is no
legislative requirement to engage in an equality impact assessment in respect
of good relations, this does not necessarily mean that equality impact
assessments are inappropriate in this context.
COUNTY COURT SCALE COSTS
31
Part 1
Definition of Policy
There have been some difficulties in defining what constitutes a policy in the context
of section 75. To be on the safe side it is recommended that you consider any new
initiatives, proposals, schemes or programmes as policies or changes to those
already in existence. It is important to remember that even if a full EQIA has been
carried out in an “overarching” policy or strategy, it will still be necessary for the
policy maker to consider if further screening or an EQIA needs to be carried out in
respect of those policies cascading from the overarching strategy.
Overview of Policy Proposals
The aims and objectives of the policy must be clear and terms of reference well
defined. You must take into account any available data that will enable you to come
to a decision on whether or not a policy may or may not have a differential impact on
any of the s75 categories.
Policy Scoping
10.
The first stage of the screening process involves scoping the policy under
consideration. The purpose of policy scoping is to help prepare the
background and context and set out the aims and objectives for the policy,
being screened. At this stage, scoping the policy will help identify potential
constraints as well as opportunities and will help the policy maker work
through the screening process on a step by step basis.
11.
Public authorities should remember that the Section 75 statutory duties apply
to internal policies (relating to people who work for the authority), as well as
external policies (relating to those who are, or could be, served by the
authority).
Information about the policy
Name of the Policy
The Policy proposals are to –
Consider the impact on County Court Scale Costs as a consequence of the proposed
increase in the financial jurisdiction of the County Courts from £15,000 to £30,000.
Carry out an Impact Assessment on the following two elements
 Proposals for new scales
 Inflationary rise
Is this an existing, revised or a new policy?
The policy is to increase the limits of an existing system. It arises from Departmental
proposals to increase the jurisdictional limit of the County Court by way of insertion of
three additional bands to the existing County Court Scale Costs:

£15,000-£20,000

£20,000-£25,000

£25,000-£30,000
It is also proposed to uplift the scale costs for the existing county court jurisdiction
32
INITIAL INTEGRATED IMPACT ASSESSMENT
(up to £15,000) by reference to the rate of inflation as measured by the GDP deflator
series, currently measured at 9.85% from 01.07.07 to 31.03.11
What is it trying to achieve? (intended aims/outcomes)
The Impact Assessment aims to assess the impact on key stakeholders on the
proposals by considering the options, costs and benefits of this policy proposal by
considering other available options.
Are there any Section 75 categories which might be expected to benefit from the
intended policy? If so, explain how.
It is expected that the policy will benefit section groups equally.
Who initiated or wrote the policy?
The policy is driven by the County Court Rules Committee following a decision of the
Department of Justice to increase the general financial jurisdiction of the county
courts from £15,000 to £30,000. The County Court Rules Committee considered the
manner of awarding costs for matters falling within the new jurisdictional limit and
existing scales.
Who owns and who implements the policy?
The County Court Rules Committee by virtue of the County Courts (NI) Order 1980
and section 21(1) and (2) of the Interpretation Act (NI) 1954 make rules specifying
costs applicable to proceedings before the court and therefore owns the policy in
relation to these proposals. Rules made by the Committee are subject to allowance
by the Department which may only be given after consultation with the Lord Chief
Justice of Northern Ireland. Therefore they also both have an interest. It is proposed
following the outcome of the consultation exercise that Rules will be made by the
County Court Rules Committee amending the County Court Rules (Northern Ireland)
1981 to implement these policy proposals.
Implementation factors
12.
Are there any factors which could contribute to/detract from the intended
aim/outcome of the policy/decision?
Yes
If yes, are they
financial
legislative
other, please specify _________________________________
Main stakeholders affected
13.
Who are the internal and external stakeholders (actual or potential) that the
policy will impact upon?
staff
service users
other public sector organisations
voluntary/community/trade unions
COUNTY COURT SCALE COSTS
33
other, please specify
County Court Rules Committee, the Department of Justice, and Office of
the Lord Chief Justice
Other policies with a bearing on this policy
The proposal of the Department of Justice to increase the financial limits of the
county court jurisdiction.
Available evidence
14.
Evidence to help inform the screening process may take many forms. Public
authorities should ensure that their screening decision is informed by relevant
data.
15.
What evidence/information (both qualitative and quantitative) have you
gathered to inform this policy? Specify details for each of the Section 75
categories.
Section 75 Category
Religious belief
Political opinion
Racial group
Age
Marital status
Sexual orientation
Men and Women generally
Disability
Dependants
Details of evidence/information
None
None
None
None
None
None
None
None
None
The policy will impact upon any party involved in paying professional Solicitors and
Counsel fees in any proceedings before the County Court in Northern Ireland.
The Committee has considered data specifically available from Northern Ireland
Courts and Tribunals Unit in relation to the distribution of Civil Bills which will move
from the High Court to the County Court and the impact on Legal Aid expenditure.
Needs, experiences and priorities
16.
Taking into account the information referred to above, what are the different
needs, experiences and priorities of each of the following categories, in
relation to the particular policy/decision? Specify details for each of the
Section 75 categories.
Section 75 Category
Religious belief
Political opinion
34
Details of evidence/information
None
None
INITIAL INTEGRATED IMPACT ASSESSMENT
Racial group
Age
Marital status
Sexual orientation
Men and Women generally
Disability
Dependants
None
None
None
None
None
None
None
Part 2 - SCREENING QUESTIONS
Introduction
17.
In making a decision as to whether or not there is a need to carry out an
equality impact assessment, consider questions 1-4 listed below.
18.
If the conclusion is none in respect of all of the Section 75 equality of
opportunity and/or good relations categories, then the decision may to screen
the policy out. If a policy is ‘screened out’ as having no relevance to equality
of opportunity or good relations, give details of the reasons for the decision
taken.
19.
If the conclusion is major in respect of one or more of the Section 75 equality
of opportunity and/or good relations categories, then consideration should be
given to subjecting the policy to the equality impact assessment procedure.
20.
If the conclusion is minor in respect of one or more of the Section 75 equality
categories and/or good relations categories, then consideration should still be
given to proceeding with an equality impact assessment, or to:


measures to mitigate the adverse impact; or
the introduction of an alternative policy to better promote equality of
opportunity and/or good relations.
In favour of a ‘major’ impact
21 (a) The policy is significant in terms of its strategic importance;
(b) Potential equality impacts are unknown, because, for example, there is
insufficient data upon which to make an assessment or because they are
complex, and it would be appropriate to conduct an equality impact
assessment in order to better assess them;
(c) Potential equality and/or good relations impacts are likely to be adverse or are
likely to be experienced disproportionately by groups of people including those
who are marginalised or disadvantaged;
(d) Further assessment offers a valuable way to examine the evidence and
develop recommendations in respect of a policy about which there are
concerns amongst affected individuals and representative groups, for example
in respect of multiple identities;
COUNTY COURT SCALE COSTS
35
(e) The policy is likely to be challenged by way of judicial review;
(f) The policy is significant in terms of expenditure.
In favour of ‘minor’ impact
22 (a) The policy is not unlawfully discriminatory and any residual potential impacts
on people are judged to be negligible;
(b) The policy, or certain proposals within it, are potentially unlawfully
discriminatory, but this possibility can readily and easily be eliminated by
making appropriate changes to the policy or by adopting appropriate mitigating
measures;
(c) Any asymmetrical equality impacts caused by the policy are intentional
because they are specifically designed to promote equality of opportunity for
particular groups of disadvantaged people;
(d) By amending the policy there are better opportunities to better promote
equality of opportunity and/or good relations.
In favour of none
23 (a) The policy has no relevance to equality of opportunity or good relations.
(b) The policy is purely technical in nature and will have no bearing in terms of its
likely impact on equality of opportunity or good relations for people within the
equality and good relations categories.
24.
Taking into account the evidence presented above, consider and comment on
the likely impact on equality of opportunity and good relations for those
affected by this policy, in any way, for each of the equality and good relations
categories, by applying the screening questions given overleaf and indicate
the level of impact on the group i.e. minor, major or none.
Screening questions
What is the likely impact on equality of opportunity for those affected by this
policy, for each of the Section 75 equality categories?
Minor/Major/None
Section 75
Level of impact?
Details of policy impact
category
Minor/Major/None
Religious belief
None
None
Political opinion
None
None
Racial group
None
None
Age
None
None
Marital status
None
None
Sexual orientation None
None
Men and Women
None
None
1.
36
INITIAL INTEGRATED IMPACT ASSESSMENT
generally
Disability
Dependants
None
None
None
None
Are there opportunities to better promote equality of opportunity for people
within the Section 75 equalities categories?
Section 75
If Yes, provide details
If No, provide reasons
category
Religious belief
No
Political opinion
No
Racial group
No
Age
No
Marital status
No
Sexual orientation
No
Men and Women
No
generally
Disability
No
Dependants
No
2.
We cannot identify any opportunities to better promote equality of opportunity
or better community relations.
To what extent is the policy likely to impact on good relations between people of
different religious belief, political opinion or racial group?
Minor/Major/None
Good relations
Level of impact
Details of policy impact
category
Minor/Major/None
Religious belief
None
None
Political opinion
None
None
Racial group
None
None
3.
Are there opportunities to better promote good relations between people of
different religious belief, political opinion or racial group?
Good relations
If Yes, provide details
If No, provide reasons
category
Religious belief
No
Political opinion
No
Racial group
No
4.
COUNTY COURT SCALE COSTS
37
Additional considerations
Multiple identity
25.
Generally speaking, people can fall into more than one Section 75 category.
Taking this into consideration, are there any potential impacts of the
policy/decision on people with multiple identities?
(For example; disabled minority ethnic people; disabled women; young
Protestant men; and young lesbians, gay and bisexual people).
26.
Provide details of data on the impact of the policy on people with multiple
identities. Specify relevant Section 75 categories concerned.
N/A
Part 3 - Screening decision
27.
If the decision is not to conduct an equality impact assessment, please provide
details of the reasons.
On the basis of this screening of proposals it does not appear that the proposals will
impact on equality of opportunity or good relations, for any of the section 75
categories. It is expected that the policy will benefit section groups equally. There is
no need to carry out an equality impact assessment.
28.
If the decision is not to conduct an equality impact assessment, consider if the
policy should be mitigated or an alternative policy be introduced.
No
29.
If the decision is to subject the policy to an equality impact assessment,
please provide details of the reasons.
N/A
30.
Further advice on equality impact assessment may be found in a separate
Commission publication: Practical Guidance on Equality Impact Assessment.
Mitigation
31.
38
When the public authority concludes that the likely impact is ‘minor’ and an
equality impact assessment is not to be conducted, the public authority may
consider mitigation to lessen the severity of any equality impact, or the
introduction of an alternative policy to better promote equality of opportunity or
good relations.
INITIAL INTEGRATED IMPACT ASSESSMENT
32.
Can the policy/decision be amended or changed or an alternative policy
introduced to better promote equality of opportunity and/or good relations?
33.
If so, give the reasons to support your decision, together with the proposed
changes/amendments or alternative policy.
N/A
Timetabling and prioritising
34.
Factors to be considered in timetabling and prioritising policies for equality
impact assessment.
35.
If the policy has been ‘screened in’ for equality impact assessment, then
please answer the following questions to determine its priority for timetabling
the equality impact assessment.
36.
On a scale of 1-3, with 1 being the lowest priority and 3 being the highest,
assess the policy in terms of its priority for equality impact assessment.
Priority criterion
Rating
(1-3)
Effect on equality of opportunity and good relations
Social need
Effect on people’s daily lives
Relevance to a public authority’s functions
37.
Note: The Total Rating Score should be used to prioritise the policy in rank
order with other policies screened in for equality impact assessment. This list
of priorities will assist the public authority in timetabling. Details of the Public
Authority’s Equality Impact Assessment Timetable should be included in the
quarterly Screening Report.
38.
Is the policy affected by timetables established by other relevant public
authorities?
39.
If yes, please provide details.
COUNTY COURT SCALE COSTS
39
Part 4 - Monitoring
40.
Public authorities should consider the guidance contained in the Commission’s
Monitoring Guidance for Use by Public Authorities (July 2007).
41.
The Commission recommends that where the policy has been amended or an
alternative policy introduced, the public authority should monitor more broadly
than for adverse impact (See Benefits, P.9-10, paras 2.13 – 2.20 of the
Monitoring Guidance).
42.
Effective monitoring will help the public authority identify any future adverse
impact arising from the policy which may lead the public authority to conduct
an equality impact assessment, as well as help with future planning and policy
development.
Part 5 - Approval and authorisation
Screened by:
Rosie Keenan
Ambrose Doone
Mark Clokey
Approved by:
Maria Dougan
Position/Job Title
Date
Staff Officer,
Civil
Policy
Support 20.06.11
Manager
Staff Officer,
Criminal Policy Support 20.06.11
Manager
Executive Officer,
20.06.11
Administrator
Principal Legal Officer
21.06.11
Note: A copy of the Screening Template, for each policy screened should be ‘signed
off’ and approved by a senior manager responsible for the policy, made easily
accessible on the public authority’s website as soon as possible following completion
and made available on request.
40
INITIAL INTEGRATED IMPACT ASSESSMENT
ANNEX A
MAIN GROUPS IDENTIFIED AS RELEVANT TO THE SECTION 75 CATEGORIES
Category
Main Groups
Religious Belief
Protestants; Catholics; people of other religious
belief; people of no religious belief
Political Opinion
Unionists generally; Nationalists generally;
members/supporters of any political party
Racial Group
White people; Chinese; Irish Travellers; Indians;
Pakistanis; Bangladeshis; Black Africans; Afro
Caribbean people; people of mixed ethnic group,
other groups
Age
For most purposes, the main categories are: children
under 18; people aged between 18 and 65. However
the definition of age groups will need to be sensitive
to the policy under consideration. For example, for
some employment policies, children under 16 could
be distinguished from people of working age
Marital/Civil Partnership
Status
Married people; unmarried people; divorced or
separated people; widowed people; civil partnerships
Sexual Orientation
Heterosexuals; bisexual people; gay men; lesbians
Men and Women generally
Men (including boys); women (including girls); transgender and trans-sexual people
Persons with a disability
and persons without
Persons with a physical, sensory or learning disability
as defined in Schedules 1 and 2 of the Disability
Discrimination Act 1995.
Persons with dependants
and persons without
Persons with primary responsibility for the care of a
child; persons with personal responsibility for the care
of a person with a disability; persons with primary
responsibility for a dependent elderly person.
COUNTY COURT SCALE COSTS
41
Appendix 6 - Consultees
ABI (Association of British Insurers)
Antrim and Ballymena Solicitors Association
Allianz
APIL (Association of Personal Injury Lawyers)
Armagh Solicitors Association
Association of District Judges
Aviva
AXA Insurance Ltd
Bangor Solicitors Association
Bar Council
Belfast Solicitors' Association
CBI Northern Ireland
Citizens Advice Bureau
Coalisland and Dungannon Solicitors Association
Coleraine and Ballymoney Solicitors Association
Cookstown Solicitors Association
Crown Solicitors Office for Northern Ireland
Departmental Solicitors Office
Department of Finance & Personnel
Department of Health Social Services & Public Safety
Department of Regional Development
Directorate of Legal Services
Down and District Solicitors Association
Endsleigh
Equality Commission for Northern Ireland
Federation of Small Businesses
Fermanagh Solicitors Association
Forum of Insurance Lawyers
Foyle Solicitors Association
Freight Transport Association
Her Majesty's Council of County Court Judges
42
INITIAL INTEGRATED IMPACT ASSESSMENT
High Court Judges
Hughes Insurance
Law Society of Northern Ireland
Limavady Solicitors Association
Lisburn Solicitors Association
Lord Chief Justice of NI
Newry and Banbridge Solicitors Association
Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce
Northern Ireland Housing Executive
Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission
Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission
Omagh Solicitors Association
Open + Direct Insurance
Personal Injuries Bar Association
Portadown Solicitors Association
Quarry Products Association
Quinn Direct
Royal Sun Alliance Insurance Plc
Strabane Solicitors Association
South Derry and Magherafelt Solicitors Association
Translink
Zurich Insurance
COUNTY COURT SCALE COSTS
43
Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service
Laganside House
23-27 Oxford Street
Belfast
BT1 3LA
www.courtsni.gov.uk
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