Court fees

A single set of fees for both the High and County Courts comes into force on 1 October 2007. A new hearing fee for trials has been introduced with provision made for the refunding of the fee, or a percentage of it, if the claim is settled or discontinued within specified periods before the date fixed for the hearing. The fee when filing a listing questionnaire has been reduced to £100 but will no longer be refundable. For full details, see the Civil Proceedings (Amendment) (No 2) Order 2007

Privilege for in-house lawyers

In-house lawyers have failed to win an extension of legal professional privilege (LLP) so as to put them on an equal footing with private practice lawyers under European law. The existing difference between EU and English law in this area will therefore continue, since no distinction is drawn between advice given by external and in-house lawyers under English law. The European Court of First Instance rejected arguments to extend privilege to communications with in-house lawyers in a case brought by Akzo Nobel and Akcros Chemicals against the European Commission over a raid and seizure of documents in 2003. When facing an EU antitrust investigation, internal documents such as competition policy compliance plans containing legal advice from an in-house lawyer are not privileged. In this context, companies will need to continue to route legal advice through their external lawyers to protect its confidentiality.

Revised TCC Guide

A revised version of the Technology & Construction Court Guide comes into force on 1 October 2007. There are various minor amendments including some to reflect recent changes to the Pre-action Protocol for Construction and Engineering Disputes. The Guide is available on the HMCS website.

CPR update

The latest amendments come into force on 1 October 2007. Fast track costs will increase for trials beginning on or after that date. There is also a new CPR 19.9 dealing with derivative actions. For full details, see the Ministry of Justice website.

CFA consultation

This consultation outlines proposals concerning fixed recoverable success fees and after the event (ATE) insurance premiums in publication proceedings (defamation and privacy cases) funded under CFAs. The consultation period ends on 31 October 2007. Click here to read the consultation paper and see under Privacy below for details of the latest case on Art 8.

Defective CFA

A claimant’s solicitor’s failure to sign a CFA is a material breach of the relevant regulations and in such a case the solicitor cannot recover his costs nor the success fee (Preece v Caerphilly County Borough Council). This follows the strict approach to compliance with the statutory requirements taken by the Court of Appeal last year in Garrett v Halton Borough Council.

Budget for London courts

A Freedom of Information Act request has revealed that the budget for maintenance of the courts in the London area for 2007/2008 is lower than the budget for 2006/2007. The figure for the year ended 31 March 2007 was £19,145,895. The figure for the year ending 31 March 2008 is £18,071,250. Most of the reduction is made to the budget for administrative resource cost rather than that for capital expenditure. Problems with finding and keeping good court staff look set to continue.

Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007

This Act received Royal Assent on 19 July 2007. On 19 September 2007 certain provisions relating to the new statutory framework for tribunals came into effect. For full details see the Act and the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 (Commencement No. 1) Order 2007.

Address for service

A murderer’s proceedings against God have been struck out by a Romanian court on the ground that God has no legal residence and therefore no address for service. The murderer alleged that, by failing to protect him from evil, God had not honoured the contract he concluded with him at baptism.

Abuse of proceedings

Abuse of civil proceedings is not a cause of action known to the law. The court hearing such proceedings has power to address such abuse in its orders for costs and there is no basis for bringing separate proceedings – Ustimenko v Prescot Management Co Ltd [2007] EWHC 1853 (QB).