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HMCTS improving the justice system

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Civil, Court and tribunal reform, Crime, Digital services, Family

[English] - [Cymraeg]

I’m Fiona Rutherford and I lead HM Courts & Tribunals Service’s Business Strategy and Design Team. To put it simply, my team and I are responsible for helping to shape how our justice system will look and operate in the future.

We are investing more than £1 billion to build a modern system that works for everyone – from victims, witnesses and applicants to hard-working judges, legal professionals and HMCTS staff. This wholesale transformation programme is about more than upgrading our technology and our buildings – we’re revisiting our fundamental assumptions about how justice can best be served to the people that need it, in a modern era.

So what does this mean

In future, more cases will be progressed and resolved entirely online, without the need for a hearing. For example, it will allow those charged with some of the most straightforward, non-imprisonable offences (such as failure to produce a rail ticket) to visit GOV.UK, have all the options clearly explained to them, accept a conviction and pay a set penalty instantly online without waiting for a magistrate to process their case.

Similarly, a new online court which will enable businesses and ordinary working people to resolve civil claims of up to £25,000 simply and easily online, giving them an estimated 100,000 working days back each year to get on with their busy lives.

We recognise that hearings will still be required in many cases to deliver justice. But it’s not always necessary or proportionate to ask parties to travel to court and wait around for this hearing. In future, more hearings, such as bail and remand hearings, will be conducted away from the traditional court room, via telephone or video-link, reducing delays and unnecessary travel to court for all involved.

We appreciate the importance of working with our justice partners and stakeholders to achieve these changes. The Design Team includes a national stakeholder team who are embedding core principles around co-production and co-delivery of modern business and operating models.

Physical courts rooms

It’s absolutely right that we retain the full majesty of the physical court room for the most complex and serious cases, such as criminal trials and sentencing. Where appropriate, we will make greater use of video-link technology to spare victims and witnesses the distress and expense of attending a trial, and reducing journeys between prisons and court. We’re investing in our estate and our facilities to make the most of the opportunities new technology presents for improving peoples’ courtroom experience.

I’m really excited about these bold and ambitious proposals, which are underpinned by the Prisons and Courts Bill and will make our courts swifter, more accessible and easier for everyone to use.

We’re transforming the way we deliver justice because justice matters.

Please use the comments section at the bottom of the page to leave me your views. You can also ensure you keep informed of our progress by subscribing to our email alerts service.

[English] - [Cymraeg]

GLlTEM yn gwella’r system cyfiawnder

Fiona Rutherford ydw i ac rwy’n arwain Tîm Strategaeth Fusnes a Dylunio Gwasanaeth Llysoedd a Thribiwnlysoedd EM. I’w roi yn syml, yr wyf i a fy nhîm yn gyfrifol am helpu i lywio sut fydd ein system cyfiawnder yn edrych ac yn gweithredu yn y dyfodol.

Rydym yn buddsoddi mwy na £1 biliwn er mwyn datblygu system fodern sy’n gweithio i bawb – o ddioddefwyr, tystion a cheiswyr i farnwyr, gweithwyr cyfreithiol proffesiynol a staff GLlTEM sy’n gweithio’n eithriadol o galed. Mae'r rhaglen drawsnewid eang hon yn fwy na dim ond diweddaru ein systemau technoleg a’n hadeiladau - rydym yn ailedrych ar ein rhagdybiaethau sylfaenol o ran sut y gallwn ddarparu’r system cyfiawnder orau i’r bobl sydd ei hangen, mewn oes fodern.

Felly beth mae hyn yn ei olygu

Yn y dyfodol, bydd mwy o achosion yn cael eu prosesu a’u datrys ar-lein, heb yr angen am wrandawiad. Er enghraifft, bydd y rhai hynny sydd wedi cael eu cyhuddo o gyflawni troseddau syml, na ellir rhoi dedfryd o garchar amdanynt (megis methu â chyflwyno tocyn trên) yn gallu mynd i GOV.UK lle bydd yr opsiynau yn cael eu hegluro’n glir iddynt, byddant yn gallu derbyn euogfarn a thalu cosb benodol yn syth ar-lein heb orfod aros i ynad brosesu eu hachos.

Yn debyg, bydd llys ar-lein newydd yn galluogi busnesau ac unigolion sy’n gweithio ddatrys hawliadau sifil o hyd at £25,000 yn syml ac yn hawdd ar-lein, gan roi oddeutu 100,000 o ddyddiau gwaith yn ôl iddynt bob blwyddyn er mwyn iddynt allu parhau a’u bywydau prysur.

Rydym yn cydnabod y bydd dal angen cynnal gwrandawiadau gyda llawer o achosion er mwyn sicrhau cyfiawnder. Ond nid yw bob amser yn angenrheidiol neu’n gymesur i ofyn i bartïon deithio i’r llys ac aros o gwmpas am y gwrandawiad. Yn y dyfodol bydd mwy o wrandawiadau, megis gwrandawiadau mechnïaeth a remand, yn cael eu cynnal i ffwrdd o ystafell llys draddodiadol, dros y ffôn neu gyswllt fideo, gan leihau oedi a theithiau diangen i'r llys i bawb.

Rydym yn cydnabod pwysigrwydd gweithio gyda’n partneriaid a’n rhanddeiliaid cyfiawnder er mwyn cyflawni'r newidiadau hyn. Mae’r Tîm Dylunio yn cynnwys tîm rhanddeiliaid cenedlaethol sy’n mewnosod egwyddorion craidd sy’n ymwneud â chyd-gynhyrchu a chyd-ddarparu busnes a modelau gweithredu modern.

Ystafelloedd llys traddodiadol

Mae’n hollol iawn ein bod ni’n cadw’r ystafell llys draddodiadol ar gyfer yr achosion mwyaf cymhleth a difrifol, megis treialon troseddol a gwrandawiadau dedfrydu. Lle bo hynny’n briodol, byddwn yn gwneud mwy o ddefnydd o dechnoleg cyswllt fideo er mwyn arbed dioddefwyr a thystion y boen a’r gost o orfod mynychu treial, a lleihau amseroedd teithio rhwng carchardai a’r llys. Rydym yn buddsoddi yn ein hystâd a’n cyfleusterau er mwyn gwneud y mwyaf o’r cyfleoedd sy’n dod law yn llaw â thechnoleg newydd ar gyfer gwella profiad unigolion yn yr ystafell llys.

Mae’r Bil Carchardai a Llysoedd wrth wraidd y newidiadau hyn ac rwy’n edrych ymlaen at weld y cynigion beiddgar ac uchelgeisiol hyn yn cael eu datblygu, oherwydd byddant yn gwneud ein llysoedd yn gyflymach, yn fwy hygyrch ac yn haws i bawb eu defnyddio.

Rydym yn trawsnewid y ffordd yr ydym yn darparu cyfiawnder oherwydd mae cyfiawnder yn bwysig.

Defnyddiwch yr adran sylwadau sydd ar waelod y dudalen er mwyn i mi gael eich barn. Gallwch hefyd sicrhau eich bod yn cael gwybod am unrhyw ddatblygiadau drwy danysgrifio i’n gwasanaeth negeseuon e-bost.

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  1. Comment by Paul Apreda posted on

    Thanks for this valuable update Fiona. We are hoping that we'll eventually be allowed to join the customer evaluation process in Family Justice as proposed by your colleague Sidonie Kingsmill. We believe that we have a pivotal role as a representative body for men - who after all make up some 70% of applicants for Private Law orders - and the overwhelming majority of those seeking Child Arrangement orders for some form of contact with their children. We have concerns about s47 of the Prison and Courts Bill because in seeking to protect those who claim they are victims of domestic violence and abuse it is likely that, as we've seen with LASPO, more allegations of abuse are made and the interests of justice are poorly served by preventing Litigants in Person from effectively engaging in the process to challenge unfounded allegations of abuse. The President of the Family Division recently said at a conference in Bristol on 18th March - 'Unfounded allegations are a big problem. It begins with Ex Parte applications that set the tone and influence the course of proceedings'

    • Replies to Paul Apreda>

      Comment by HMCTS Business Strategy and Design Team posted on

      Thank you for your comments Paul. Clause 47 of the Prisons and Courts Bill will allow family courts to stop face-to-face cross-examination of vulnerable witnesses, whether men or women, so that people who need to be heard are not afraid of speaking out. There is no reason to believe that the prohibition will in any way impinge on the rights of the would-be questioner. If the prohibition applies, judges will have to consider if there is a satisfactory alternative means of obtaining the evidence or for the witness to be cross-examined. If there is no such satisfactory alternative, then the court can appoint a legal representative to carry out the cross-examination, paid from public funds. In cases where a parent has made allegations of abuse, the court must decide at the earliest possible opportunity whether to hold a finding-of-fact hearing about the allegations. If the allegations are later proved to be unfounded, or less serious than suggested, the court will take due account of this when making decisions about arrangements for children.

  2. Comment by Richard Guy OBE JP posted on

    i was very interested to read today about the future vision around improving building and experience for court users. However one of the ways that need to be addressed are proper court training suites for magistrates training. I was trying to film a training session to share later with my colleagues recently and the venue had to be changed due to equipment not working and not being repaired. The venue had sun blazing into the room preventing overheads by the speaker being seen clearly and overhead projector noise impacted the audio quality of the recording. Our staff do the very best with often poor equipment and venues but it lacks the professionalism we should be aiming for.

    • Replies to Richard Guy OBE JP>

      Comment by HMCTS Business Strategy and Design Team posted on

      Thank you for your comment Richard. We have brought it to the attention of colleagues responsible for future HMCTS property requirements, and hope that your future experience is much improved.

  3. Comment by Deborah Fosbrook posted on

    The creation of an online world for access to the legal system and access to justice is inevitable. I hope however that it does not also seek to diminish the important role that qualified Barristers and Solicitors and Solicitor Advocates need to continue to provide in order for the public to have informed advice. There are too many companies now purporting to provide a service to the public and using the names - legal services, immigration law, claims advisor etc which are not subject to regulation by the Law Society or the Bar Council or any other regulatory body. The Justice department fails to deal with these businesses and their activities grossly mislead the public as to the quality of advice on offer. The website is very poor in the amount of advice and guidance it currently offers on many topics and is grossly inadequate. The impression I am left with from this current statement is that the court system can easily be put aside and that the legal system is merely an administrative exercise. I beg to differ on this point. There are many people for whom their day in court is important - they want to see the persons' face to face and to hear the words spoken. There is a clear aim here to sell off the valuable land on which many of these courts are held. In recent years many magistrates courts have disappeared from Highgate to Eastbourne. I think that it is important to make access to the legal system more affordable but not at the cost of the removal of a system which has survived successfully for hundreds of years. Other recent online schemes such as secured deposits for tenancies have created just as many problems as they have solved and have been too narrowly drafted. The legal system can only be reformed and updated when those who are inherently involved on a day to day basis at all levels are listened to and the responses assessed. There should not be an imposition of an online software system which will cost millions without proper preparation. The government has already wasted millions on other programmes for the NHS in this manner which have then be abandoned. This project needs to be led from the top of the legal system and that requires a qualified Solicitor or Barrister being appointed Lord Chancellor. I find it particularly annoying that since it will be the 100th anniversary of a woman joining the Bar in 2022. The route which has for generations been recognised as the pinnacle of the legal tree should now be deemed a post available to anyone regardless of their track record.

  4. Comment by Colin Appleby posted on

    What about the interested person who has no legal training/court experience but feels he must access HMCTS to resolve a benefits dispute with DWP? They have all the expertise to put before/sway a Court to decide in their favour even when they are wrong. Commonly held beliefs are a Tribunal simply wants to get a case "heard" as quickly as possible at the expense of justice & the person with no experience/expertise. How is on line justice going to improve a system already flawed in favour of a Govt department?

    • Replies to Colin Appleby>

      Comment by HMCTS Business Strategy and Design Team posted on

      Thank you for your comment Colin. The needs of our users are at the heart or our aim to build an accessible, proportionate and just system. The Tribunals are designed to be less formal than courts and many users currently present their appeal without legal representation. We believe that improved signposting, guidance and information for tribunal users, supported by new digital tools, will ensure the right information is available to the Tribunal to make a swift and just decision. A vital part of our reforms is to ensure that all users, in particular disabled users and other users who may have difficulty physically attending a tribunal, are able to access justice in a range of ways convenient to them.

  5. Comment by C Vander posted on

    Concerned about who makes the judgment on these 'minor' issues such as the rail ticket evader, or the fishing licence evader. It will be all too tempting to keep adding to the list of offences for which an online response will be deemed sufficient. Part of the punishment is not necessarily the fine or the community order, it is having to look magistrates in the eye whilst the offence is read out, and the inconvenience of having to attend court, and wait around. It focuses the mind on why the offender is there, and why the magistrates are there also; to show that society has indeed been offended against.
    Let us not forget when cautions by police were extended; we heard of rape perpetrators being cautioned! Who is the arbiter of the online offences?

    • Replies to C Vander>

      Comment by HMCTS Business Strategy and Design Team posted on

      Thanks for your comment. The only offences which will be eligible for online procedures are those which do not have an individual victim, do not have the option of a trial or a prison sentence. For a case to be eligible, the Government’s policy is that it must be relatively straightforward to prove and where there is little or no discretion in relation to the sentence. There will be a number of safeguards: the procedure is entirely voluntary; defendants will need to actively opt-in and will be given all the information they require to make an informed decision. Defendants will be warned to seek advice, before pleading guilty.

      Consideration will be given to extending the procedure to other offences in future. We will work with interested parties and look at these individually and in detail before identifying which offences are likely to be appropriate. Any proposed changes would be put before Parliament for approval.

  6. Comment by Andrew Wilson posted on

    Successful claimants on the Online Court will have worked their way through the new, litigant in person friendly procedure and will then have a judgment which may need enforcement. Are they going to be left to fend for themselves at that stage to work out which of the 9 ways to enforce their judgment to choose? (CPR Part 70.2.1)
    Why not offer something similar to the Employment Tribunal Fast Track system (EX727 & Form 471 & CPR Part70.5 & 70PD4.1A) to allow the claimant to move straight to enforcement, by completing a single form & paying a single court fee only?

    • Replies to Andrew Wilson>

      Comment by HMCTS Business Strategy and Design Team posted on

      Thank you for your comment Andrew. We are currently in the process of reviewing options around streamlining and simplifying the enforcement process, making it much more accessible and user friendly for all court users. As we go through the process of developing how the future enforcement service may look we will take the opportunity to fully engage with all of our stakeholders.