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MA response to National Audit Office report on the court reform programme

13 September 2019
MA response to National Audit Office report on the court reform programme

The National Audit has published Transforming courts and tribunals: a progress update, an update on HM Courts and Tribunals Service's court reform programme. Their report examines the progress made in the second stage of the reform programme, which ended in January 2019, and takes a closer look at the estates reform programme.

Responding to the report, John Bache, National Chair of the Magistrates Association, said:

‘We welcome the progress made by HM Courts and Tribunals Service in responding to the recommendations made by the National Audit Office. The court reform programme is complex and ambitious and it is important that it is subject to rigorous scrutiny and flexible in responding to concerns that have been raised.

‘While we recognise that there was a need to reduce the scope of the reform programme in order to make it manageable to deliver, this report highlights the impact that these changes will have on the efficiencies and savings that will be achieved. As the reform programme develops, it will be important to ensure that it actually delivers real benefits that make all the upheaval worthwhile.

‘We strongly support the recommendation of this report that HM Courts and Tribunals Service should better demonstrate how it is monitoring the impact of its reforms on users of the justice system. We recognise the need to deliver savings as part of the reform programme, but it is essential that in doing so the experience of those who use the courts does not deteriorate.

‘We are also concerned that a further 77 courts are due to be closed. Justice should, wherever possible, be administered locally and many courts are already worryingly remote from the communities that they serve. Video technology has a role to play but it is important that courts remain genuinely accessible to victims, witnesses and defendants, enabling them to attend in person.

‘Nobody wants to prevent the much-needed modernisation of the court system, but as the reform programme continues to develop this must not be at the expense of running fair, effective courts delivering accessible, visible justice that commands the confidence of local communities.’

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