https://insidehmcts.blog.gov.uk/2017/09/21/were-pausing-court-hours-pilots-to-get-evaluation-and-other-changes-right/

We're pausing court hours pilots to get evaluation and other changes right


[English] - [Cymraeg]

My blog earlier this week emphasised the need for us to listen and engage more as we take forward court reform. I meant what I said.

Piloting new flexible operating hours in courts, to test whether we can use our buildings more effectively, is a small part of our overall reform programme to build a justice system that is fair, straightforward and accessible to all. But the issue has been controversial with many in the legal profession, and I understand why.

The strong views expressed reinforce the need for us to proceed on a clear evidence base. It’s for that reason that, today, we have agreed to delay the start of these pilots until we are satisfied that we have a robust, independent evaluation system in place; and until we have taken more time to engage and discuss the pilots, picking up on comments made on how they could be improved.

As many people know, we had planned to start the pilots across the Crown, Magistrates, Civil and Family jurisdictions over the next six weeks. However, the tender process we ran over the summer to find an independent organisation to undertake this evaluation has not, in our view, delivered a satisfactory outcome. We’ve also heard from many people – including those outside the pilot areas – who wanted us to spend more time discussing and refining the plans.

We are therefore going to reopen the process and re-tender for an independent organisation to lead the evaluation work. At the same time, we’ll make more information available and spend more time consulting with legal professionals in each jurisdiction, including those outside the pilot areas. This will mean the pilots will now begin in February next year.

A great deal of work has gone on, particularly at a local level, to enable these pilots to go ahead and I am grateful to all those who have helped to get them ready. I know some will be frustrated by the delay, but I’m clear that we must both evaluate properly, and respond to the concerns that have been raised. So, we will:

  • set out more clearly our detailed plans for each of the existing pilots – explaining exactly what we will test, where and when, and what kind of work we propose to focus each session on. We’ll also offer opportunities to make suggestions for improvement – including for those outside the pilot areas.
  • work up some additional pilots, prompted by suggestions that have been made in response to our original proposals. For example, it’s been suggested that we look at a pilot involving Crown Court work in the morning and Tribunals work in the same courtroom in the afternoon – making better use of the building while avoiding extending the period over which any individual practitioner might be called on to be in court. Another suggestion made was to pilot a model that builds on emerging practice in some courts by testing a ‘normal’ court sitting day with video, telephone and virtual work taking place either side of that core day – again, aiming to make better use of the estate but with earlier and later slots reserved for things that don’t also require travel. I would like us to design both of these additional pilots in concert with barristers, solicitors and others who have an interest.
  • continue to work closely with the Bar Council, Law Society, CILEX, Bar Standards Board and others as we select a new evaluator and finalise the evaluation criteria (which will be published and available well before the pilots begin).

Finally, many of the concerns raised about flexible operating hours point to issues in the way cases are currently scheduled and listed. Unpredictability features in the system now, and makes it difficult for many to contemplate anything that increases the window in which cases might take place. Of course, listing is a judicial function and judges must always have the final say. They must balance many things in making their decisions, and there will always be a case for ‘warned lists’ while so many trials do not go ahead as planned. But, as part of our reform programme, we know we need to improve the way we do the work that underpins and informs those judicial decisions. And we think there’s scope to make a lot of difference.

Our aim is that better technology and systems will help us all manage and progress cases more effectively, build better draft lists, and take more account of availability and sensitivity to change. Data analysis will also help predict the right rate at which to list, measure and track unnecessary changes and reduce wasted time and effort. We need to do this work, whether or not we have more flexible operating hours. We need to do this work alongside the judiciary; but I am also clear that it will only be done well if we do it absolutely hand in glove with legal professionals too, using their insight and their clear sense of what needs to be better. We'll be saying more about the scheduling and listing project - and how you can get involved - in the coming weeks.

I hope all concerned will understand why we have made this decision today. We’ll now use this time to further engage and listen to all involved in the justice system, from legal professionals to HMCTS officials, from the judiciary to members of the public – to get the best outcome for those who depend on a modern, efficient and effective justice system.


[English] - [Cymraeg]

Yr oedd fy mlog yn gynharach yr wythnos hon yn pwysleisio’r angen i ni wrando ac ymgysylltu mwy wrth i ni fwrw ymlaen â diwygio’r llysoedd. Roeddwn o ddifri pan ddywedais i hynny.

Mae treialu oriau gweithredu hyblyg newydd yn y llysoedd, i weld a allwn ddefnyddio ein hadeiladau yn fwy effeithlon, yn rhan fechan yn unig o’n rhaglen ddiwygio gyffredinol i adeiladu system gyfiawnder sy’n deg, yn syml ac yn hygyrch i bawb. Ond bu’r mater yn un dadleuol gyda llawer yn y proffesiwn cyfreithiol, ac rwy’n deall pam.

Mae’r safbwyntiau cadarn a fynegwyd yn cadarnhau’r angen i ni symud ymlaen ar sylfaen dystiolaeth glir. Am y rheswm hwnnw, heddiw, yr ydym wedi cytuno i ohirio dechrau’r cynlluniau peilot hyn hyd nes y byddwn yn fodlon bod gennym system werthuso gadarn ac annibynnol yn ei lle; a hyd nes y byddwn wedi cymryd mwy o amser i ymgysylltu a thrafod y cynlluniau peilot, gan dalu sylw i sylwadau a wnaed ar y modd y gellid eu gwella.

Fel y gŵyr llawer o bobl, yr oeddem wedi bwriadu cychwyn y cynlluniau peilot ar draws awdurdodaethau’r Goron, Ynadon, Sifil a Theulu dros y chwe wythnos nesaf. Fodd bynnag, nid yw’r broses dendro a gynhaliwyd gennym dros yr haf i ganfod sefydliad annibynnol i ymgymryd â’r gwerthusiad hwn wedi cyflawni canlyniad boddhaol yn ein barn ni. Rydym hefyd wedi clywed gan lawer o bobl – gan gynnwys rhai y tu allan i’r ardaloedd peilot – a oedd eisiau i ni dreulio mwy o amser yn trafod a mireinio’r cynlluniau.

O’r herwydd, rydym am ailagor y broses ac ail-dendro ar gyfer sefydliad annibynnol i arwain y gwaith gwerthuso. Ar yr un pryd, byddwn yn sicrhau bod mwy o wybodaeth ar gael ac yn treulio mwy o amser yn ymgynghori â gweithwyr cyfreithiol proffesiynol ym mhob awdurdodaeth, gan gynnwys y rhai y tu allan i’r ardaloedd peilot. Mae hyn yn golygu y bydd y cynlluniau peilot yn awr yn cychwyn ym mis Chwefror y flwyddyn nesaf.

Mae llawer iawn o waith wedi ei wneud, yn enwedig ar lefel leol, i alluogi’r cynlluniau peilot hyn i fynd rhagddynt ac rwy’n ddiolchgar i bawb sydd wedi cynorthwyo i'w paratoi. Gwn y bydd rhai yn teimlo’n rhwystredig oherwydd yr oedi, ond rwy’n glir bod yn rhaid i ni werthuso’n gywir, ac ymateb i’r pryderon sydd wedi eu codi. Felly byddwn yn gwneud y canlynol:

  • nodi ein cynlluniau manwl yn glir ar gyfer pob un o’r cynlluniau peilot sy’n bodoli – gan esbonio’n union beth y byddwn yn ei brofi a pha bryd, ac ar ba fath o waith yr ydym yn bwriadu canolbwyntio ym mhob sesiwn. Byddwn hefyd yn cynnig cyfleoedd i wneud awgrymiadau ar gyfer gwelliannau – gan gynnwys ar gyfer y rhai sydd tu allan i’r ardaloedd peilot.
  • creu rhai cynlluniau peilot ychwanegol, a ysgogwyd gan awgrymiadau a wnaed mewn ymateb i’n cynigion gwreiddiol. Er enghraifft, awgrymwyd y dylem edrych ar gynllun peilot yn cynnwys gwaith Llys y Goron yn y bore a gwaith Tribiwnlys yn yr un llys yn y prynhawn – gan wneud gwell defnydd o’r adeilad tra’n osgoi ymestyn y cyfnod pryd y gallai unrhyw ymarferydd unigol gael ei alw i fod yn y llys. Awgrym arall a wnaed oedd rhedeg peilot ar fodel sy’n adeiladu ar ymarfer sy’n datblygu mewn rhai llysoedd drwy brofi diwrnod eisteddiad ‘cyffredin’ yn y llys gyda fideo, ffôn a rhith-waith yn digwydd naill ochr i’r diwrnod craidd hwnnw – gan anelu, unwaith eto, at wneud gwell defnydd o'r ystâd ond gyda slotiau cynharach a hwyrach wedi eu cadw ar gyfer pethau nad ydynt hefyd yn golygu’r angen i deithio. Byddwn yn hoffi i ni ddylunio pob un o’r cynlluniau peilot ychwanegol hyn yn gywir, ar y cyd â bargyfreithwyr, cyfreithwyr ac eraill a allai fod â diddordeb.
  • parhau i weithio’n agos gyda Chyngor y Bar, Cymdeithas y Gyfraith, CILEX, Bwrdd Safonau’r Bar ac eraill wrth i ni ddewis gwerthuswr newydd a rhoi gwedd derfynol ar y meini prawf gwerthuso (a fydd yn cael eu cyhoeddi ac ar gael ymhell cyn i’r cynlluniau peilot gychwyn).

Yn olaf, mae llawer o’r pryderon a godwyd ynghylch oriau gweithredu hyblyg yn ymwneud â materion cysylltiedig â’r ffordd y caiff achosion eu trefnu a’u rhestru ar hyn o bryd. Mae elfen annisgwyl yn y system ar hyn o bryd, ac mae’n ei gwneud yn anodd i lawer allu ystyried unrhyw beth sy’n cynyddu’r ffenestr pryd y gallai achos gael ei gynnal. Wrth gwrs, mae rhestru yn swyddogaeth farnwrol a rhaid i farnwyr gael y gair olaf bob amser. Rhaid iddynt gydbwyso llawer o bethau wrth wneud eu penderfyniadau, ac fe fydd bob amser achos dros ‘restrau rhybudd’ tra bo cynifer o dreialon ddim yn mynd rhagddynt fel y cynlluniwyd. Ond, fel rhan o’n rhaglen ddiwygio, gwyddom fod angen i ni wella’r ffordd y gwnawn y gwaith sy’n sail i’r penderfyniadau barnwrol hynny ac yn eu goleuo. Ac rydym o'r farn bod lle i wneud llawer o wahaniaeth.

Ein nod yw y bydd gwell technoleg a systemau yn ein cynorthwyo ni i gyd i reoli a bwrw ymlaen ag achosion yn fwy effeithlon, llunio rhestrau drafft gwell, a chymryd mwy o sylw o argaeledd a sensitifrwydd i newid. Bydd dadansoddi data hefyd yn gymorth i ragweld ar ba gyfradd i restru, mesur ac olrhain newidiadau diangen a lleihau’r ymdrech a’r amser sy’n cael eu gwastraffu. Mae angen i ni wneud y gwaith hwn beth bynnag, waeth os bydd gennym oriau gweithredu mwy hyblyg ai peidio. Mae angen i ni wneud y gwaith hwn ochr yn ochr â’r farnwriaeth; ond rwyf hefyd yn glir na fydd yn cael ei wneud yn dda ond os gweithredwn law yn llaw â gweithwyr cyfreithiol proffesiynol hefyd, gan ddefnyddio eu gwybodaeth hwy a’u synnwyr clir o’r hyn sydd angen ei wella. Byddwn yn dweud mwy am y prosiect trefnu a rhestru - a sut y gallwch chi chwarae rhan - yn yr wythnosau i ddod.

Rwy’n gobeithio y bydd pawb cysylltiedig yn deall pam ein bod wedi gwneud y penderfyniad hwn heddiw. Byddwn yn awr yn defnyddio’r amser hwn i ymgysylltu a gwrando ar bawb sy’n ymwneud â’r system cyfiawnder, o weithwyr cyfreithiol proffesiynol i swyddogion GLlTEM, o’r farnwriaeth i aelodau’r cyhoedd - er mwyn cael y canlyniad gorau ar gyfer y rhai sy’n dibynnu ar system gyfiawnder fodern, effeithiol ac effeithlon.

3 comments

  1. Comment by Gillian Irving QC posted on

    Dear madam
    I agree entirely with the principle that people must have access to justice. We must take into account those that have jobs to do, and people to care for. However, increasing court hours is really just a distraction from the more fundamental issue.
    Many courts have closed or been moved to locations out of city centres. I have been in Torquay County Court this week
    It's on a shopping/ industrial estate some miles out of Torquay
    The nearest bus stop is over a mile away
    If you didn't drive or have someone to take you you would need to find the money for a taxi . A lot of people involved in publicly funded matters can't afford that luxury.
    Access to justice must surely start with ensuring that courts are located in readily accessible places. Otherwise it won't matter what time it opens and closes
    I understand that in Devon further closures are anticipated

  2. Comment by Professor Izhak Assouline posted on

    Dear Mrs Susan Acland-Hood
    First of all, I would like to congratulate you for all the blessed work.
    Second, like any project of this magnitude, there may be deficiencies of this kind and others, which I am certain that
    You are also aware of them, so you need a lot of patience with the public that aspires to total perfection.
    Well done to you and anyone who deals with this difficult task and wish you the most blessings
    And the successes.
    Best regards
    Professor Izhak Assouline

  3. Comment by Morwenna Macro posted on

    If HMCTS wish to better utilise their court buildings, what about early evening mediations? I had a positive experience of this at CLCC in its previous building a few years back. This would bring in an income without extending court sitting hours (with all the problems that entails). It would also provide better access to mediation. It would particularly suit lower value and less complex claims where the cost of mediation can be prohibitive and where 2 or 3 hours is sufficient (an evening cut off also helps focus minds). Worth considering?