I have written and spoken before, both on this blog and at various events around the country, about HMCTS’s £1bn transformation programme of our courts and tribunals service.
Earlier this month, I was invited to attend a Gov Tech summit in Paris, where I was able to update participants from across Europe on how we are reforming our justice system. It was fascinating to hear from a range of speakers and attendees about how new technologies and ways of working are being used in different contexts to transform the way in which people interact with and access public services, and to reflect on the work that we are doing in HMCTS.
Next week, HMCTS is co-hosting (with the Society for Computers and Law) the first international forum on online courts. The event will run over two days, and will provide an opportunity to showcase the cutting edge of digital reform from jurisdictions around the world – more than 20 countries will be represented, from USA to China, Singapore to Australia, Canada to India, and many more in-between. I will blog with my reflections after the event.
While both of these events have technology as their main theme, what both highlight is the importance of ensuring that new systems that are developed through those new technologies are built in partnership with and around the people who use them.
Here in the UK, the justice system handles more than 4.5 million cases every year across all jurisdictions. The numbers are big, but at the heart of almost all cases is an individual; a person with a family, with a job or caring responsibilities, perhaps with a health condition or disability, who might be vulnerable, a person of any age or background, a person who is living their everyday life and who probably never expected to be drawn in to the world of the justice system.
Whether they are victims, witnesses, defendants or litigants in person, they are the people that connect all of us who work in the justice system, and the work that we are all doing.
Over the course of next week’s conference, we will hear from representatives from around the world on how modern ways of working and new technologies are being harnessed to deliver what people want – systems that work with and for them; that they can use when and how they want; and that make what can seem like difficult and unwieldy processes – often being navigated at difficult times in people’s lives – straightforward and understandable.
We will also share our experiences from the UK, both of the new online services that we have introduced, as well as our plans for the future.
Perhaps most importantly, though, what events like next week’s conference, and the summit earlier this month, provide is an important opportunity to learn from others involved in trying to humanise our justice systems and put the people who use them at their heart.