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Rushed pace of reform putting pressure on courts

By Gazette Reporter >>

(23 February 2023)

The public spending watchdog’s finding that hasty implementation of reforms by HM Courts and Tribunals Service is putting extra pressure on the courts was echoed by the Law Society today. In its report Progress on the courts and tribunals reform programme, the National Audit Office states that, despite an increased budget, HMCTS does not expect to be able to deliver the £1.3 billion programme to its current timetable and full scope.

Law Society president Lubna Shuja said‘We support the government’s investment in a reform programme to modernise and improve court services, however those reforms must not come at the expense of justice. Our concern, reflected in the NAO’s report, is that delays in the courts are being exacerbated by ineffective reforms, which are costing more time and wasting money.’

The reform programme was launched in 2016 and was due to complete by December of this year. Shuja said: ‘We ask that HMCTS clarify what the updated timeline is to deliver the full programme, and whether there will be funding for their projects to be sustained in the future.’

The implementation of the common platform computer system comes under particular criticism in the report. Shuja said: ‘New technology should only be fully implemented once it has been robustly tested, evaluated, and proven to work. Otherwise, as we have heard from members and seen in the court staff strikes over the Common Platform rollout, it will only cause further setbacks in the system.’

Shuja also highlighted the NAO’s finding that HMCTS lacks data to evaluate the programme’s benefits. ‘The NAO is right to recommend HMCTS seeks to better understand how efficiently reformed services are working. Consistent and timely data collection for this purpose would help ensure this,’ she said.

(Courtesy: The Law Society Gazette)