Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

The Modernisation of Tribunals – report from the Senior President of Tribunals

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When he published his Annual Report in 2018, the Senior President of Tribunals promised that there would be a second report, devoted to the issue of the reform of the tribunal system, in the context of the overall courts and tribunals modernization programme.

This second report has now been published. It reports on the outcome of a consultation and a series of engagement meetings which took place around the country under the general heading of Judicial Ways of Working.

It is not an easy report to summarise, but the headline conclusions are:

  1. Judges will shape and lead reform in each of our jurisdictions to ensure that the rule of law is safeguarded and, in particular, that effective access to justice is improved.
  2. New process or the use of digital tools should never lead to less fair procedures or less effective access to justice.
  3. Judicial decision making should be no less open to public scrutiny than it is at present, that is, the careful balance we strike between open justice and the privacy of an individual’s personal information is maintained.
  4. We must ensure that systems are designed to meet the needs of the people who use them, for example how digital access is facilitated for the digitally excluded (a new service known as Assisted Digital). Different types of assistance are currently being tested.
  5. Tribunals led the way in the use of Case Officers before the modernisation programme began. A new generation of tribunals case workers has been trialled as part of the modernisation programme and a career structure has been developed for all ‘Authorised Officers’. Different models with differing levels of responsibility will work in each Tribunal. How and where authorised officers are used will be determined by each jurisdiction but subject to the overall protection of permissions contained in Rules and Practice Directions.
  6. Implementing change is a specialist task. There will be identified HMCTS managers and teams who are responsible for delivering successfully piloted projects in each jurisdiction. The Delivery of Change will depend on the agreement of an ‘end-to- end’ model for each jurisdiction.
  7. There is work to be done to agree the important features of the hardware and software that will be used to support us.
  8. Necessary funding for Digital Training has been obtained. Its provisions will be overseen by the Judicial College and judge trainers. The training will be available to judges and non-legal members and will include opportunities for authorised officers as well.
  9. Where video hearings are to be enhanced and fully video hearings tested, great care is being taken to make sure the system is designed with the needs of judges and users front and centre.
  10. The work towards a Tribunals Estates Strategy which considers each building in the Tribunals estate is an immense task but is nearly complete. The strategy and the principles which will determine how the leasehold estate is managed and how we plan for the future is expected to be agreed by February 2019. There is acknowledgement that some judges and members are currently in unsuitable accommodation; there is acceptance that provision for the Tribunals should in no way be inferior to that provided for the courts and a real desire to ensure that modernisation secures improvements to the working environment.

This is adapted from the summary in Annex E of the report, which is available at https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/6.5332_JO_Modernisation-of-Tribunals-2018-Report_v3.pdf

Judicial Ways of Working

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Written by lwtmp

February 28, 2019 at 2:56 pm

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