Scott to conduct civil law review

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STEPHEN WARD

Legal Affairs Correspondent

Sir Richard Scott, who is about to publish his report on arms to Iraq, was yesterday put in charge of the Government's planned sweeping reforms of the creaking civil justice system.

Under the current system, even relatively trivial cases like boundary disputes often take years to settle, and run up costs out of any proportion to the amount at stake.

Under the plans that are being finalised by an inquiry team under the Law Lord, Lord Woolf, judges will be expected to speed up cases at every stage by hurrying up the lawyers and setting strict deadlines. Fast-track courts for claims up to pounds 10,000 are to be introduced.

Lord Woolf is to publish his final recommendations after two years' work this summer, and Sir Richard's appointment is a sign that his recommendations are unlikely to be left on one side by the Government.

Sir Richard, currently Vice Chancellor, the judge in charge of courts handling company disputes, probate, sale of land and insolvency, will keep the same title and pounds 110,000 salary, but increase his responsibilities to become head of civil justice.

The Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay, said that Sir Richard "will contribute a unique perspective on the development of a co-ordinated, efficient and flexible system which is so urgently needed".

His task includes stopping criminal and family work taking too much court time at the expense of civil cases, making sure the reforms are implemented once they are announced, and making sure judges get the necessary amount of re-training to take on their new role as case managers.

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