Judges will begin to crack down on obstructionist or delaying tactics in civil court cases, punishing such 'tactical games' with extra costs, under reforms to be introduced this week, Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang has warned. After almost a decade of work, comprehensive reforms of the civil justice system will come into effect on Thursday. The reforms are aimed at remedying flaws that drive up legal costs and deny many people access to justice. In an interview, the chief justice expressed confidence that the resolution of disputes would become more cost-effective through either a streamlined litigation process or the use of mediation. Responding to sceptics who argue that some litigants will always find ways to employ delaying tactics, Mr Justice Li said: 'They can try. But under the new system, the judges are engaged in active case management ... the court will do what is effective to stop any tactical games.' He highlighted the judges' new powers in case management as key to the reforms, saying they would ensure cases were run without excessive procedural applications and arguments over issues that were not central to the case. Judges will be empowered to punish parties with extra costs for unreasonable behaviour, even if the party wins the case. The current system has long been criticised as being too costly, deterring middle-class individuals and small businesses who do not qualify for legal aid from litigation. Parties with a financial advantage are also able to drag out a case until the other side runs out of money. 'This is a very comprehensive reform, but it is not a revolution,' Mr Justice Li said. 'We are currently driving a relatively old car. This old car, throughout the years, underwent some repairs. Now, we are replacing it with a very modern car, but it is not an aeroplane. After our new measures ... we should have a reduction in the time and costs of litigation.' Mr Justice Li acknowledged there would be a period of adjustment for judges, whose duties will include case management and deciding whether a case would have been better suited for mediation. He also acknowledged that the mediation system was still relatively unknown to the public, but expressed confidence it would develop and supported calls for a 'mediation centre' where all mediation services could be offered in a single venue. 'There will come a point in time, where the client - when he goes to the lawyer - says: 'I understand there are advantages in mediation ... Could you advise me on mediation?'' A Department of Justice spokesman said: 'To promote mediation at the community level, we are actively taking steps to address the concerns about the provision of venues.' Mr Justice Li said he believed the legal community was prepared for the reforms, but warned those who were not: 'If a barrister or solicitor says, 'I'm sorry, I didn't know until I came to court today there is a new set of civil procedure rules' - I'm sure he will be in a great deal of trouble.'