Archive for the ‘chapter 7’ Category
Enromous changes to the ways in which courts – both criminal and civil – and tribunals operate have already been foreshadowed in a number of policy documents published during 2016. Parts 2 to 4 of the Prisons and Courts Bill contain provisions that will give statutory authority to the changes that have been proposed.
The headline provisions may be set out as follows:
Part 2 creates new procedures in civil, family, tribunal and criminal matters.
It makes changes to court procedures in the Crown Court and magistrates’ courts to make processes and case management more efficient.
It allows some offenders charged with summary-only, non-imprisonable offences to be convicted and given standard penalties using a new online procedure.
It extends the use of live audio and video links, and ‘virtual’ hearings where no parties are present in the court room but attend by telephone or video conferencing facilities.
It makes provision which will apply across the civil, criminal and tribunal jurisdictions to ensure public participation in proceedings which are heard virtually (by the streaming of hearings), including the creation of new criminal offences to guard against abuse, for example by recording such stramed hearings.
It creates a new online procedure rules committee that will be able to create new online procedure rules in relation to the civil, tribunal and family jurisdictions.
It bans cross-examination of vulnerable witnesses – in particular those who have been the subject of domestic abuse – in certain family cases.
It confers the power to make procedure rules for employment tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal on the Tribunal Procedure Committee and extends the membership of the Committee to include an employment law practitioner and judge or non-legal member.
Part 3 contains measures relating to the organisation and functions of courts and tribunals.
It extends the role of court and tribunal staff authorised to exercise judicial functions giving the relevant procedure rules committees the power to authorise functions in their respective jurisdictions.
It abolishes local justice areas, enabling magistrates to be appointed on a national basis, not just to a specific local justice area.
It replaces statutory declarations with statements of truth in certain traffic and air quality enforcement proceedings.
It makes reforms to the arrangements for the composition of employment tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal.
It enables the High Court to make attachment of earnings orders for the recovery of money due under a judgment debt, as far as practicable, on the same basis as in the County Court.
Part 4 contains measures relating to the judiciary and the Judicial Appointments Commission.
It enables more flexible deployment of judges by enabling them to sit in different jurisdictions.
It brings the arrangements for the remuneration of judges and members of employment tribunals – currently undertaken by the Secretary of State for Employment – under the remit of the Lord Chancellor.
It rationlises the roles of judges in leadership positions who will support a reformed courts and tribunals system. (This includes provision to abolish the statutory post of Justice Clerk; this role will continue, but those qualified to be Clerks will also be able to undertake analogous work in other court/tribunal contexts.)
It gives the Judicial Appointments Commission the power to carry out more work (not directly related to judicials appointments) on a cost-recovery basis.
Source, Explanatory Notes to the Prisons and Courts Bill 2017, available at https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2016-2017/0145/en/17145en02.htm
Keeping the reform of Family Justice under review – the work of the President of the Family Division
A notable development in the programme of change currently happening in the Family Justice system is the very personal attention being given to the programme by Sir James Munby, the President of the Family Court. He publishes a regular series of newsletters, which he now calls ‘The View’, setting out progress both on matters of the reform of family law, and the processes of the courts.
He clearly supports the aims and objectives of the Norgrove recommendations for change and is anxious that practice and procedures are made more efficient. He is clearly concerned about the resources available to the Family Justice system, but does not think that more resources is the answer to all the problems of the system. He wants new approaches to be developed as well.
One particular development of which he has become a strong supporter is the notion of ‘problem-solving courts’. The theory is that many families that get caught up in the care system do so because there are aspects of life style – especially alcohol and substance abuse – which result in children coming to the attention of social service departments. The argument is that if you offer a programme of support for the parent(s) who are not coping well, to change their lives, this could result in few children being brought within the case system – with all the cost that this entails.
Some years ago, Judge Nicholas Crichton established a new type of court – the Family Drug and Addiction Court (FDAC) – which sought to put these ideas into practice.
In 2015, a FDAC National Unit was created, which seeks to promote the development of these courts in different parts of the country. In its first year it had helped more than 15 such courts to come into existence.
Sir James Munby is extremely impressed with their work and a powerful advocate for their further development.
To read Sir James Munby’s newsletters/Views go to https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/publications/view-from-presidents-chambers/
To read more about the FDAC Unit go to http://fdac.org.uk/
The Consultation Paper, Transforming our Justice System, has little to say on further reforms to the Family Justice system.
It has been undergoing radical change over the last few years, following publication of the report by David Norgrove and the creation of the single family court. The Government clearly wants work in progress to continue.
Progress with these reforms is kept under active review by the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, who now issues regular newsletters on developments – the latest is the subject of a separate blog item.
September 2016 saw the publication of an extremely important Consultation Paper, which sets out ideas on how the courts and tribunals system in England and Wales should be reformed.
Its proposals are based on three principles, that the reformed system should be proportionate, accessible and just.
The Paper states:
To deliver a system that is proportionate and tailored for the complexity andseriousness of individual cases, [the Government is] taking a consistent approach across jurisdictions [i.e., criminal, administrative, family and civil], including:i. More use of case officers for routine tasks: Judges spend too much of their timedealing with uncontroversial, routine or straightforward matters which could just aseffectively be dealt with by court staff under judicial authorisation. Where it isappropriate, specially trained staff will be able to carry out some of this work tohelp justice move faster.ii. More decisions made “on the papers”: Where a case is relatively straightforward orroutine, representations will be made online in writing for a judge to consideroutside of a traditional court room, without the need for a physical hearing,meaning a more convenient experience for everyone involved.iii. More virtual hearings: Where a judge needs to listen to the parties make theirarguments, it will be possible in many cases to hold the hearings over telephone orvideo conference, without the need for the parties to travel to a court building.There will still be an important place for physical court hearings for criminal trialsand other serious or complex cases, but where they are appropriate, virtualhearings offer an easy and convenient alternative for everybody.iv. More cases resolved out of court: In appropriate cases, we will encourage partiesto settle their disputes themselves, without the intervention of the courts.
i. Putting probate applications online: Dealing with probate affairs can be difficult andcomplicated at a time when people are often coping with bereavement. We aredigitising the probate system to allow the entire process to be managed online,from application to resolution, making it an easier and faster process when casesare uncontested.ii. Managing divorce online: Work has already begun to allow divorce applications tobe made and managed online, removing some of the bureaucracy from oftenstressful and lengthy proceedings and simplifying cumbersome administrativeprocesses.iii. Digitising applications for Lasting Powers of Attorney: Allowing people to makearrangements for a time in the future when they may not be able to makedecisions by themselves is a helpful but often emotionally stressful process.Applications have been partially digitised since 2014, resulting in fewer applicationforms being returned because of errors. We will build on this by making the systemfully digital to deliver a quicker service.
i. Provide a system that works for everyone: Digital and online processes are easyand efficient for many people, but the justice system must also work for peoplewho do not or cannot access services online. We must provide an alternative routeof access for every service that moves online. ..ii. Continue to ensure open justice: It is a core principle of our justice system thatjustice is open. “It is not merely of some importance, but of fundamentalimportance that justice should not only be done, but should be manifestly andundoubtedly seen to be done,” as Lord Chief Justice Hewart said in 1924. Theprinciple of open justice will be upheld and the public will still be able to see andhear real-time hearings, whilst we continue to protect the privacy of the vulnerable.
The programme for restructuring how all the buildings currently used by courts and tribunals – to ensure better and more effective usage – is gathering pace. A significant contribution to how detailed policy may develop was made this month by the legal think-tank, JUSTICE. A recent working party report (in which I participated) recommends:
- The reconception of court and tribunal rooms as ‘justice spaces’. This new model is defined by its inherent flexibility and rejection of the over-standardisation prevalent in existing courts and tribunals. Justice spaces are designed to adapt to the particular dispute resolution process taking place within them, and the needs of users, rather than the other way around.
- A flexible and responsive court and tribunal estate, made up of a number of dynamic parts. The Working Party suggests a portfolio of Flagship Justice Centres; Local Justice Centres; ‘Pop-up courts’; remote access justice facilities; and digital justice spaces.
The Working Party emphasises the importance of technology, and its potential to meet user needs and maximise access to justice. All of the Working Party’s proposals are anchored in a commitment to a core set of principled considerations to ensure fairness of process and access to justice. Finally, the report makes practical recommendations aimed at ensuring the effective implementation of the HMCTS Reform Programme.
The full report (and accompanying Press Release) can be accessed at http://justice.org.uk/what-is-a-court/
In July 2015, the Government launched a consultation on closing under used courts. 91 possible buildings were earmarked for possible closure. (See this blog 26 July 2015)
We know that reduction of the court estate is a key component needed to fund the investment needed to modernise the court estate. (See this blog 3o Nov 2015).
The Government has now announced the buildings that are to be closed – together with an indicative timetable showing that the closure programme will run over 2 years.
In the end only 64 of the sites originally identified will close as proposed. A further 22 closures will take place, but modified from the original proposals. 5 escape the axe altogether.
On 29th January 2016, a pilot scheme was launched designed to give greater publicity to the work of the Court of Protection.
This is a specialist Court which makes decisions about the personal welfare (e.g. medical treatment) and the property and affairs of persons who lack capacity to make them themselves, applying a best interests test. The Court of Protection’s main base is in London but it also sits throughout England and Wales.
The Court of Protection was established by the Mental Capacity Act 2005. It is responsible for:
- deciding whether someone has the mental capacity to make a particular decision for themselves
- appointing deputies to make ongoing decisions for people who lack mental capacity
- giving people permission to make one-off decisions on behalf of someone else who lacks mental capacity
- handling urgent or emergency applications where a decision must be made on behalf of someone else without delay
- making decisions about a lasting power of attorney or enduring power of attorney and considering any objections to their registration.
- considering applications to make statutory wills or gifts
- making decisions about when someone can be deprived of their liberty under the Mental Capacity Act.
It deals with about 25,000 applications under the Act each year. A high percentage of applications relating to property and affairs are not disputed and they are dealt with on paper without a hearing.
A new Pilot Practice Direction will apply to new proceedings issued from 29 January 2016. The Practice Direction effectively changes the default position from one where hearing are held in private to one where hearings are held in public with reporting restrictions to protect identities. This means that when an order has been made under the pilot, both the media and the public will be able to attend, unless a further order has been made which excludes them.
The work of the Court has not been totally hidden from public view.
- Court of Protection judgments have been routinely published since 2010.
- Serious medical cases (such as a decision to stop life support) are held in public, with the identities of those concerned kept anonymous.
- Committal hearings where a custodial sentence is imposed are also held in public.
Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) is also amending the way in which court lists are displayed, so that they provide a short descriptor of what the case is about, allowing the media and members of the public to make an informed decision on whether to attend the hearing. Lists will be published on a weekly basis in court buildings and online at www.courtserve.net.
This follows on from the development of practice in the Family Court where, for the last 6 years, accredited media have been able to report on proceedings. It is accepted that many will want these proceedings to be private; the pilot is designed to provide evidence about how the balance between publicity and privacy might be improved.
For further information see https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/announcements/court-of-protection-prepares-to-open-up/