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Lord Chief Justice Mansion House speech to judges

'The greatest lesson from the last 16 months'

30 July 2021
Lord Chief Justice Mansion House speech to judges

In a speech given to judges given at Mansion House, the Lord Chief Justice, The Right Honourable The Lord Burnett of Maldon, spoke about the position of England and Wales as a jurisdiction and what is needed to ensure that it continues to flourish. He spoke about the lessons learned from the way the justice system has had to adapt over the last 16 months. ‘There will be no going back to February 2020’, he cautioned as he spoke about some of the developments in technology that have enabled courts to operate remotely.

He added that the pandemic has also shed light on the system’s inherent fragilities, including backlogs and delays, stating that it has exposed the implications if the justice system, ‘one of the bedrocks of a free society governed by the rule of law’, is not working smoothly and quickly.

He highlighted four themes that he views as vital to building on the jurisdiction’s strong position for the future: investment, modernisation, managing demand and the rule of law and independence of the judiciary. He called for ‘sustained’ funding to reduce the levels of outstanding cases after years of budgetary squeezes have reduced the resilience and flexibility of courts and tribunals, limiting capacity. He also noted that had the modernisation programme been further along when the pandemic struck, ‘we could have done much more’, describing the programme as ‘vital to the long-term health of the administration of justice’.

He spoke of the importance of out of court resolutions being the default, and of systems facilitating this across criminal, family and employment cases. He also added that it is important not to neglect the fundamentals that underpin the jurisdiction, with the high level of respect for the rule of law and the institutional and personal independence of the judiciary meaning that the courts in England and Wales are trusted ‘at home and abroad’.

Finally, he thanked the dedication of the judges, magistrates and staff working across the country and in all jurisdictions, saying that ‘If we value justice, we must value them’ and citing the health of the courts and tribunals being dependent on them as ‘the greatest lesson from the last 16 months’.

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