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Recovery plan for reducing the backlog in the justice system

Justice system announcements

07 July 2020
Recovery plan for reducing the backlog in the justice system

The government has made a number of announcements relating to the future of the justice system, including increased investment, improved technology and a range of emergency measures to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Prime Minister announced an economic recovery strategy that will fund substantial infrastructure projects including:

  • £142m for digital upgrades and maintenance to around 100 courts this year
  • £83m for maintenance of prisons and youth offender facilities
  • £60m for temporary prison places, creating thousands of new jobs

In his speech to parliament, Robert Buckland credited all those working in the justice system, including magistrates, for responding positively to the challenges posed by Covid-19, ensuring the most important cases were progressed. He announced the publication of HMCTS’s new recovery plan and the next steps to increase the work of courts. The first aim is to increase the physical capacity of the court estate so more cases can be heard. This involves opening up those courts that are still closed, as well as considering extending their operating hours and identifying buildings that could be used as alternative venues. The second aim is to expand the use of audio and video technology to hold more remote hearings. This includes provision of more hardware to improve the quality of video hearings as well as considering new ways to use technology for organising listing. The third aim is to make the best use of judicial time while ensuring the justice system is there for those that need it. This involves encouraging alternative dispute resolution where appropriate, and supporting flexible working as well as vulnerable court users. The Lord Chancellor also agreed that emergency measures would be assessed, so that lessons could be learnt before deciding what changes should be retained long-term.

blog by Susan Acland-Hood has also been published summarising the HMCTS recovery plan.  She highlighted all the work that has been done over the last few months, especially in dealing with priority cases, but acknowledged there was still substantial work to be done.

The government announced that Cloud Video Platform (CVP) technology has been extended so it will be available to all civil and family proceedings across England and Wales so more remote hearings can be held. CVP is already being used for criminal cases, as explained in a HMCTS blog. It can be accessed by any device that has a camera and a microphone, including a smart phone, so it is easier for people to join hearings.

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