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This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

Next steps in testing our proposals for court hours pilots

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

[English] - [Cymraeg]

My blog of 21 September explained our decision to delay the start of flexible court hours pilots until we were satisfied that we had a robust, independent evaluation system in place.

I also said that we would spend more time discussing and refining the plans – making more information available and engaging further with legal professionals in each jurisdiction. Over the last month, we have continued to discuss the best way we can do this and have revisited the Invitation To Tender (ITT) that will seek an independent organisation to provide an effective assessment of the pilots.

Today, we are publishing the ITT along with a supporting prospectus, which sets out the rationale for testing flexible court operating hours, and invites views on the detail of how the pilots can best be carried out.

Flexible Operating Hours Pilots Prospectus

The prospectus reflects our desire to continue engaging with all those who use and work in our courts, and to seek further ideas for how we might make the system work effectively for all, including looking further at wider court listing and scheduling issues.

We will be undertaking a series of roadshows over the next few months to listen to and engage with the legal profession and others on the wider reform programme, including issues like flexible operating hours. We will provide further details on this soon.

[English] - [Cymraeg]

Y camau nesaf wrth brofi ein cynigion ar gyfer cynlluniau peilot sy’n ymwneud ag oriau’r llys

Esboniais yn fy mlog ar 21 Medi ein penderfyniad i oedi cychwyn y cynlluniau peilot ar gyfer oriau hyblyg yn y llys hyd nes ein bod yn fodlon bod gennym system werthuso gadarn ac annibynnol mewn lle.

Dywedais hefyd y byddwn yn treulio mwy o amser yn trafod a mireinio’r cynlluniau – gan wneud yn siŵr bod mwy o wybodaeth ar gael ac ymgysylltiad pellach gyda gweithwyr proffesiynol cyfreithiol ym mhob awdurdodaeth. Dros y mis diwethaf, rydym wedi parhau i drafod y ffordd orau y gallwn wneud hyn yn ogystal ag ailedrych ar y Gwahoddiad i Dendro (ITT) a fydd yn ceisio dod o hyd i sefydliad annibynnol i ddarparu asesiad effeithiol o’r cynlluniau peilot.

Heddiw, rydym yn cyhoeddi’r ITT ynghyd â phrosbectws cefnogol, sydd yn nodi’r rhesymeg ar gyfer profi oriau gweithredu hyblyg y llys, ac mae’n gwahodd barn pobl ar beth yw’r ffordd orau o gynnal cynlluniau peilot.

Mae’r prosbectws yn adlewyrchiad o’n dymuniad i barhau i ymgysylltu gyda phawb sy’n defnyddio, ac sy’n gweithio yn ein llysoedd, a cheisio rhagor o syniadau am sut allwn wneud y system weithio’n fwy effeithiol i bawb, gan gynnwys edrych ymhellach ar restru ehangach yn y llys a’r problemau ynghylch amserlennu.

Byddwn yn cynnal cyfres o sioeau teithiol dros yr ychydig fisoedd nesaf i wrando ac ymgysylltu â'r proffesiwn cyfreithiol ac eraill ynghylch y rhaglen ddiwygio ehangach, gan gynnwys materion fel oriau gweithredu hyblyg. Byddwn yn darparu rhagor o fanylion am hyn maes o law.

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  1. Comment by Richard Lumb posted on

    How are you going to measure whether the pilots are a success or not? The only reference in this prospectus is for general feedback. What, if any, key performance indicators will be used?

    • Replies to Richard Lumb>

      Comment by HMCTS Communications Team posted on


      We are currently tendering for an independent organisation to develop and lead the evaluation of the pilots. As the timeline in the prospectus sets out, we expect the evaluator to be in place in December. We ran a series of workshops with legal professionals and other agencies to support developing the invitation to tender so that we could set out the areas we would expect to be covered in the evaluation. Once the evaluator is in place we will be engaging further as they develop the detailed evaluation criteria and methodology – which will include defining the measures of success and specific performance indicators. We expect this to include a range of quantitative and qualitative data analysis to understand the process and the impact for all court participants. We will publish the evaluation criteria and methodology so that we can receive feedback and agree the detail of how pilots will be measured.

  2. Comment by Bruce HOULDER CB QC posted on

    1. To what extent is there to be an evaluation by these independent assessors of whether these pilots are being conducted in areas which will actually reflect not only the national potential for success, but also the local differences which might put such a programme under strain.

    2. Is all the material to be available to the researchers from the previous occasion when a scheme of this kind was mooted within the department of Justice or prior to that the LCJ? Also, the evidence gathered from an examination of the discredited night court scheme may have a bearing on the assessment that is now to be made, and should also be provided to the assessors to assist in any informed evaluation.

    3. Will the question also be answered as to whether what is eventually proposed is actually an enhancement of justice, or a better means of saving departmental budgets?

    4. There needs to be transparency and honesty about real efficiency measures as at present the process appears less efficient and also discriminatory. One of the reasons it will be likely to be less efficient is because the courts are made from a large number of working parts and people. As things are run at present the cuts have produced significant and well recognised problems o with hours of court time wasted at every court as a result of ill-considered cuts, and so-called efficiency measures. How is this risk to be factored in to this assessment.

    NOTE: the author of this note has some 31 years of experience as sitting as a Recorder in the Crown Court, and was Chairman of the Criminal Bar Association in 1991, and also was the first Director of Service Prosecutions.

    • Replies to Bruce HOULDER CB QC>

      Comment by HMCTS Communications Team posted on

      Thank you for your comment, responding to each of the points you raise in turn:

      1. The evaluation will take into account any area-specific circumstances – those that might be conducive to flexible operating hours as well as those that create potential barriers. It will be a key part of the evaluation to identify the scope for any conclusions beyond the pilot sites.

      2. We expect the evaluator to note previous initiatives and their specific circumstances. We are aware of a number of previous projects which have explored extended hours and evening sittings: Flexible CJS pilots (2012) [], the Croydon double-shift-sittings pilot (2010) [], the Evening Sittings pilot in Nottingham (2015) [] and the Bow Street and Manchester Magistrates’ Court extended sittings pilot in 2002. There were also pilots of evening sitting in Employment Tribunals in Scotland. We would appreciate further elaboration on the notion of “discredited night court scheme” as we are not clear whether it is one of these pilots you are referring to?

      3. As we outline in our Prospectus, our guiding principles are improving access to justice and considering the needs of public users and professionals. The quality of justice should be the same, regardless of the time of day. The evaluation of the pilots will test the assumption of improved access and will reference in detail any cost implications. We cannot, at this stage, pre-empt what conclusions will be drawn from the results.

      4. Transparency is key to the pilot projects. The Prospectus lays open our assumptions and plans, and we will be publishing updates on our blog and in a variety of other ways. We will communicate the evaluation criteria, and we will ensure continued engagement with those interested, especially at but not limited to the pilot sites.

  3. Comment by Claire posted on

    Will earlier and later sitting hours not have a direct effect on the constitution of juries - with those who have caring responsibilities being unable to commit to the additional hours ? If so, will this not lead to a lack of diversity on juries ?

    • Replies to Claire>

      Comment by HMCTS Communications Team posted on

      Thanks for your comment Claire. Jurors wouldn’t be required to be in court for as long, although they would be required earlier or later in the day. Anecdotal evidence suggests this could be positive but we are running these pilots to ensure that we have a full understanding of the impact on court participants before we make any decisions about the future of flexible operating hours. The evaluation will include a consideration of whether there is a positive or negative impact on jurors (and other court participants).

  4. Comment by benedict posted on

    1. How far in advance of the early a.m start will:
    - courts be open and with facilities fully available
    incl. cells access; cafeteria access; CPS staff fully available; security in place; video link ready and available and so on (list not exhaustive);

    1. How far after the late p.m finish will:
    - courts be open and with facilities fully available
    incl. cells access; cafeteria access; CPS staff fully available; security in place; video link ready and available and so on (list not exhaustive);

    • Replies to benedict>

      Comment by HMCTS Communications Team posted on


      We recognise that a lot of work happens in a court building outside of a courtroom and before and after the actual court hearing. We’re putting in place arrangements for each of the pilot sites to be open at least 30 - 60 minutes before and after the start and end of the court sessions so that all parties can access facilities on site as normal prior to or following a hearing. Each pilot has a Local Implementation Team with local judiciary, legal professionals and partners represented and they will provide local court users with information about facilities and building accessibility prior to the commencement of the pilots.