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Putting brakes on court reform the right approach, says Law Society

HM Courts & Tribunals Service’s (HMCTS) update on its Reform Programme, which aims to redesign and simplify court services, indicates it has accepted stakeholders’ calls for transparency and timeliness. However, there is still work to be done, says the Law Society of England and Wales President Lubna Shuja:

We are reassured to see HMCTS has listened to our and other stakeholders’ concerns in their work to modernise and redesign court services.

Mistakes were made early on and HMCTS’ acknowledgement that it tried to ‘change too much, too quickly’ should help restore some confidence in the next steps of the reform.

Our call to HMCTS that it adjusts its timelines to ensure these are realistic and achievable is reflected in the new schedule that extends the programme to next year. It’s reassuring to see stock-taking of progress now, and we expect timelines to be kept under review.

We hope that by allowing more time to carry out reforms these will be better and more effective, which will benefit those working in and relying on the courts more in the long run.

Streamlining court services should help tackle the overwhelming backlog causing huge delays in criminal and civil justice systems.

It is important that HMCTS maintains strong engagement with the legal profession, as well as non-professional users, for consultation and direct feedback about services, such as the roll-out of remote hearings.

Better data collection will bolster transparency between stakeholders and aid improvements by showing where investment is needed and what changes are working.

We’re still waiting for the publication of the interim evaluation report, which was due to be published in December of last year. We hope the report will show us how services are performing and what impact this is having on access to justice.

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