COMMONS

Access to justice impacts of court and tribunal reforms examined

10 January 2019

The Justice Committee launches an inquiry into the access to justice implications of the programme of reforms underway in Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS), including the increasing use of digital and video technology and the closures of courts and tribunal hearing centres.

Proposals to move to a justice system where cases are resolved online

The inquiry follows on from the July 2018 report of the Public Accounts Committee into Transforming Courts and Tribunals which focussed mainly on the deliverability of the reforms and their financial implications.

The £1billion package of reforms announced in a joint vision statement - Transforming Our Justice System - published by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Chief Justice, and the Senior President of Tribunals in 2016 - sets out proposals to move to a justice system where cases are increasingly resolved online.

Along with this move to increasing use of online processes and video hearings, the courts and tribunals estate is being reformed, including through closures of courts and hearing centres.

The Government’s stated overarching aim is to increase access to justice while making the system more efficient overall.

The Committee’s inquiry into the HMCTS reform programme will consider the progress made with the reforms so far and the implications of planned changes, particularly in relation to access to justice.

We are worried about the access to justice implications

Chair of the Justice Committee, Bob Neill MP, said:

“There is no doubt that the HMCTS reforms represent a significant change in the delivery of justice across all areas of the system.

 

While we welcome the intention of modernising the courts and tribunals, the Public Accounts Committee has already raised concerns about the deliverability of the reforms.

 

We are worried about the access to justice implications and will take this opportunity to put those at the heart of our inquiry.”

Send us your views

The Committee is interested in evidence of the effects and potential effects of the HMCTS reform programme on access to justice, as well as the management of the reform process.
 
The Committee invites written submissions, addressing all or some of the terms of reference below, by Monday 11 March 2019.

  1. What will be the likely effects of the reforms, both implemented and proposed, on access to justice in relation to:
        a. civil justice?
        b. family justice?
        c. criminal justice?
        d. administrative justice, particularly as delivered by the tribunals system?
        e. those who are digitally excluded or require support to use digital services?
  2. What are the effects on access to justice of court and tribunal centre closures, including the likely impact of closures that have not yet been implemented; and of reductions in HMCTS staffing under the reform programme? For users, how far can online processes and video hearings be a sufficient substitute for access to court and tribunal buildings?
  3. Have the Ministry of Justice and HMCTS consulted effectively on the reforms, and maintained sufficient communication, with:
        a.   Judicial office holders at all levels of seniority?
        b.   The legal professions and the advice sector?
        c.   Other relevant stakeholders?
  4. Have the Ministry of Justice and HMCTS taken sufficient steps to evaluate the impact of reforms implemented so far, including those introduced as pilots; and have they made sufficient commitment to evaluation in future?

Please use the written submission form.

Further information

 Image: iStockphoto

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