Experts warn reforms could lead to miscarriages of justice.

Miscarriages of justice could result from the changes made to the civil justice system by the Woolf reforms. Expert witnesses, such as accountants, are concerned that tight deadlines, which have resulted from the Woolf reforms, could hamper the production of complete reports on which decisions are made. One expert accountant said: ‘The fact is this could mean that justice isn’t done because the reports are not as good as they would be if there was more time.’ The aims of the reforms include reducing the cost of civil cases and encouraging more disputes to be settled through mediation. But the mediation route may be taking cases away from the courts where they argue justice would be better served. Frank Ilett, a partner in dispute consulting at Arthur Andersen, said: ‘There’s a definite push for some cases to go to mediation or another form of dispute resolution and a there’s a risk some cases would be better pursued through the law courts.’ Others believe the Woolf reforms, with its emphasis on mediation, has opened up a whole new market for expert accountants. Tony Parton, a partner in dispute analysis at PwC, said accountants, with more business experience, were better placed to mediate than lawyers. PwC has already begun sending staff on mediation courses. – Analysis, page 18.

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