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Lord Chief Justice’s Annual Report 2020

11 November 2020
Lord Chief Justice’s Annual Report 2020

On the 3 November, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett of Maldon presented his annual report to Parliament. The report reflects on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, what steps have been taken to adapt to the new situation and provides updates on several issues affecting the judicial system.

The report mentions that at the beginning of the pandemic the uneven level of digitisation across the justice system meant some courts were able to transition to remote hearings more quickly and easily than others. However, he notes that HMCTS quickly expanded the availability of remote technology across all jurisdictions and into most court and hearing rooms, improving the experience for many.

It is noted that throughout the pandemic, the importance of a shared commitment to the rule of law became apparent. Excellent and close co-operation between judges, magistrates, court staff, policy officials, the legal profession, government and all those on whom the courts depend has been vital to success.

The report also provides an update on judicial training, highlighting that in the 2019-2020 training year, the Judicial College delivered 408 courses attended by 12,905 participants. The College also prepared a range of distance learning and training packs for local delivery by magistrates and accredited legal advisers as well as publishing a number of bench book updates for approximately 13,000 magistrates and 1,130 legal advisers.

From mid-March 2020, the Judicial College’s training programme and approach required urgent revision to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. This has involved a rapid shift to a digital learning platform and a reprioritised programme to support recovery. The focus has been on providing induction training, supporting digital ways of working and providing training in preparation for the end of the transition period following the UK’s departure from the EU. Between 1 April and the end of September 2020, the Judicial College delivered 139 digital seminars for 3,393 judicial office holders and ran 12 Digital Ways of Working webinars.

The report also includes summaries and updates on a range of other aspects of the justice system including judicial diversity, courts and tribunals modernisation, engagement with schools and the work of each of the jurisdictions.

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