The Justice Select Committee have launched an inquiry into the access to justice implications of the HMCTS court modernisation programme, including on the increasing use of digital and video technology and of court closures.
The announcement can be found here which also calls for written evidence to be submitted by Monday 11 March. The Law Society will be submitting evidence in accordance with the terms of reference (listed below) and would like to hear any views on these by 1st February. The Law Society would encourage all local law societies and interested organisations to also submit their own written evidence to the Justice Select Committee.
BLS intends to make submissions by 11th March and would invite members to comment on and provide evidence of issues to us to present on behalf of local practitioners. We would also encourage members to respond directly to the JSC to ensure they appreciate the volume of concern there may be around some of these issues.
You might want to give consideration to:
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?