HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has published a response to their consultation Fit for the future: transforming the court and tribunal estate. The consultation outlined proposals on HMCTS' future strategy and approach to reforming the court and tribunal estate, and how the principles of access to justice, providing value for money for the taxpayer and ensuring efficiency should be improved as modernisation takes place. As a result of responses to the consultation HMCTS have updated their principles. These seek to ensure:
- That everyone who needs to should be able to access the court and tribunal estate. Journey times to court should be reasonable and take into account the different needs and circumstances of court users. Mitigations should also be available for those who experience difficulty attending court.
- That buildings are in the best condition possible for those that use them and that they can be maintained at a reasonable cost to the taxpayer.
- There is provision of multijurisdictional centres which are able to provide flexible access for the people who use courts and tribunals. The power of technology will be harnessed to offer enhanced access and greater flexibility, as well as utilisation of alternative venues.
The MA's response to the consultation expressed our support for the use of technology to maintain a more efficient, effective and fair justice system, but highlighted that any negative impacts must be carefully considered before new technology is introduced. Specific concerns about determining reasonable travel time to access a courtroom led to clarification in the first HMCTS principle above. In addition to addressing some of our concerns in the official response, HMCTS Chief Executive Susan Acland-Hood, sent a separate letter to the MA, outlining in greater detail HMCTS' response to some of the points raised by the MA.