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Significant judicial reforms a step closer, top judge says

The supreme court

Supreme Court President Persefoni Panayi expressed optimism that a set of proposed rules for civil procedure (RCP), officially submitted on Thursday, would bring significant changes and allow courts handle cases quickly, fairly and at a proportionate cost.

The official ceremony for the submission of the proposed Rules of Civil Procedure to the Supreme Court took place online. The project, funded by the European Commission, is part of Cyprus’ judicial reform.

The proposed regulations were prepared by a group of experts chaired by Lord Dyson and were thoroughly elaborated by the ethics committee appointed by the Supreme Court, chaired by Panayi, who was a Supreme Court judge at the time. Judge Yiasemis Yiasemi was the vice chair of the committee. An equal number of judges and lawyers and one registrar participated in the eleven-member ethics committee.

There was also a public consultation during which the committee received opinions by both lawyers and members of the public.

Panayi presented the proposed regulations pointing out that significant changes are being proposed in the approach to resolving civil disputes, adopting some of the practices introduced in the UK reforms. This would allow the court to handle cases quickly, fairly and at a proportionate cost, she said, thus preparing the ground for a culture change in courts.

“No project, of course, can be successful without understanding its significance and philosophy. It is obvious that in order for the proposed regulations to be truly effective, they must be understood and accepted by all those involved in the judicial system and the new practices and procedures to be properly implemented in the courts,” she said.

The Supreme Court will review the regulations and decide within the timeframe set by the timetable of the European Commission-funded technical assistance project whether to adopt them.

According to Panayi, the adoption will not mark the end of the road, but the beginning of a new journey before their implementation, during which the proposed regulations will be reviewed and, where necessary, revised.

She added that the regulations will require a change in behaviour for more cooperation on the part of lawyers before and after the start of the proceedings, and a bolder and more practical approach by judges in exercising their active role in the management of cases.

These are issues that fall within the framework of the next phase of the project, which is the training of judges, lawyers and judicial officers on the proposed regulations.

Justice Minister Emily Yiolitis, in her address at the online ceremony, expressed her satisfaction that firm steps were being taken towards the holistic reform of the judicial system. She gave reassurances that her ministry was ready to proceed immediately with any legislative amendments that may be required to the existing laws, to ensure the effective implementation of important innovations.

She also reaffirmed the government’s commitment to actively support the implementation of reforms aimed at modernising, speeding up the administration of justice and improving the business environment in Cyprus.

This is reflected, she said, mainly in the significant additional resources available to the judiciary, such as additional judicial posts to work on delayed cases, as well as new buildings to house the new courts.

The President of the Pancyprian Bar Association, Christos Clerides, stated that he is optimistic about the future and that the wind of reform is felt by all. “It is our duty, he to implement and deliver to the new generation of lawyers and to justice in general, new ideas, practical and fair solutions, in order to achieve speed, quality and a reasonable level of costs for resolving disputes in Cyprus,” he said.

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