As the Director of Reform and Training, Mr George Erotocritou (ex-Supreme Court Judge of Cyprus) stated in a speech on 28/03/2019:
“Change is not only necessary for life. It is life. Because life has by its nature to do with change.”
Towards the end of 2016 the Supreme Court of Cyprus drafted a Report outlining the problems arising in the Cypriot Courts and sought technical assistance from the EU Structural Reform Support Service (SRSS), which has been set up to “help the EU Member States effectively design and implement structural reforms”.
It is reported that until today eighteen (18) Projects or Actions have or are scheduled to start, of which nine (9) are fully funded by the EU SRSS and the rest are State funded. The long-awaited reforms shall significantly aid in the delivering of justice in Cyprus in a more efficient and timely way.
Among the Projects are the formation of a Judicial Training School for the development and delivery of training to Judges in all Courts across Cyprus, the general Reform of the Courts, the Appointment of 26 new Judges to act as a ‘taskforce’ in relation to the “Backlog” of pending cases as well as the development of an ‘e-Justice’ platform and the introduction of mechanisms such as Digital Audio Recording of Court Proceedings (DAR).
An interim solution by the name of ‘i-Justice’ was also developed, tested and has started operation for the electronic filing of cases. By a recent announcement on 21 December 2021, the Supreme Court of Cyprus stated that starting from 1st February 2022 it shall be mandatory to file any new cases electronically. Although, it was specified that the latter shall apply to all courts in the Republic of Cyprus except from the Administrative Court of International Protection, the Criminal Courts and the Military Court.
In addition, through an EU funded project, Lord John Dyson and a team of International Specialists were appointed in 2018 in order to aid in the revision of the ‘outdated’ Civil Procedure Rules of Cyprus. The current Civil Procedure Rules mainly remain in the form in which they existed in England and Wales in 1958 and practitioners often rely on supporting jurisprudence as published in the White Book of 1954 in combination with local jurisprudence which have since adopted recent cases from England and Wales. The final revised Civil Procedure Rules, which have many similarities to the current UK Civil Procedure Rules, were translated from English to Greek and approved by the Supreme Court of Cyprus on 19 May 2021. The final revised Civil Procedure Rules are set to come into force in or about 2023, although no official announcement has yet been made as to the latter. The Cyprus Bar Association in association with the Council of Europe recently (September 2021 to November 2021) proceeded with the first training programme of 500 Cypriot Lawyers on the New Civil Procedure Rules, with further such programmes to follow. The training was provided by international expert trainers such as His Honour Nic Madge (Lead Expert Trainer for the Project), Mr Justice Seamus Noonan (Judge of the Court of Appeal of Ireland), Mr David Mcllroy (Barrister) and Mr Darragh Connell (Barrister).
The new Civil Procedure Rules shall introduce important elements such as the Overriding Objective (Part 1), Pre-action Protocols and Case and Costs Management’s Powers (Part 3) and Offers to Settle (Part 35). The latter rules as well as many other rules which have been adopted in the Cypriot final revised Civil Procedure Rules from England and Wales have extensively been tried and tested in England and Wales, something which shall bring greater certainty and jurisprudence to Cyprus and will further promote out of court settlements. Further, when the revised rules come into force, Cypriot practitioners will be able to rely on the modern White Books from England and Wales which are up to date with the latest developments in the Civil Procedure Rules of England and Wales.
The current Attorney General, Mr George Savvides stated back in January 2020 that we are currently at a focal point of Cyprus Judicial history and characterised the reforms as a ‘big bet’ which he believes will significantly improve the quality and efficiency of the Cyprus Judicial System. He also stated that a budget of approximately €90 million has been allocated in order to build, improve and/or purchase Judiciary buildings.
In order to proceed with many of the above reforms, Bills have been drafted and will be put before the Parliament for approval.
The above reforms are very welcoming for the Cyprus Judicial System as they shall significantly improve the effectiveness of judicial proceedings and the proper functioning of the justice system as a whole.
Author: Nicolas Georgiades