The president of the Cyprus Bar Association says justice reform is in the air in the Republic of Cyprus, after proposed rules on Civil Law Procedure were submitted on Thursday to the Supreme Court in hopes to introduce a new court culture on the island.
A set of proposed rules have been prepared by legal experts, under the guidance of Lord Dyson, who was assigned by the Supreme Court to review the Civil Procedure Rules following criticism by the European Commission in 2017 over an exceedingly slow and ineffective system.
CBA president Christos Clerides said he was optimistic and could feel legal reform in the air, adding “it is our duty, all of us, to implement and hand over to the next generation of lawyers, and justice in general, new ideas, practices, and solutions for fairness, speediness, quality, and proportional cost levels for resolving disputes in Cyprus.”
Local media reported that besides Lord Dyson’s team, which prepared the set of rules, the proposals were reviewed and processed by a legal committee that was chaired by then-Supreme Court judge Persephone Panagi, who became last month Chief Justice of the highest court in the land, the first female on the island to hold the position.
'In order for the new rules to be effective, they have to be accepted and understood by all the main actors in the system, and the new practices must be applied correctly by the courts'
The Chief Justice, speaking on the proposed rules on Thursday, said the reform would usher in a new court culture. Panagi went on to say that the new regulations included changes in the approach to civil dispute cases, borrowing on amendments in the United Kingdom that have allowed reforms in that country to introduce speedy trials and cost proportionality.
The administration of justice in the Republic of Cyprus has been under a lot of scrutiny in recent years following excessively long delays in resolving disputes, especially after the financial crisis. The delays were highlighted in reports such as the European Union’s Justice Scoreboard, the World Bank’s Doing Business Reports, and European Commission papers on Cyprus, urging authorities to modernize the system.
The Supreme Court, which is identified in the Constitution as the Body responsible for Civil Law procedures, will examine the new regulations and decide on whether to adopt or reject them.
Legal experts say Cyprus’ journey to a more effective and fair administration of justice won’t be over with the adoption of new civil law procedures, with Chief Justice Panagi saying the boldest act would be the second phase of reform where judges would need to be trained in real time, meaning while handling active civil cases.
“In order for the new rules to be effective, they have to be accepted and understood by all the main actors in the system of administrating justice, and the new practices must be applied correctly by the courts,” Panagi said.
Cyprus has a mixed legal system, which belonged to the common law family until independence in 1960. In 1925 Cyprus formally became a British colony but Ottoman law survived as the residual law of the land through 1935. The British had introduced common law gradually along with interpretations supplemented by recourse to English law to fill in the gaps.
Demographic factors in the Cyprus bar also played a role in further expanding the mixed character of the system, as many new lawyers in the Republic of Cyprus were obtaining degrees from Greek universities and new legislation was being transplanted from overseas.
Justice Minsiter Emily Yiolitis said the government was ready to sponsor and push through legislation if and where it may be necessary to ensure the effective implementation of the new rules.
Yiolitis, a successful corporate lawyer in her private professional life, also reiterated the government’s support for additional reforms aimed at modernizing the administration of justice and improving the entrepreneurship environment in Cyprus.