Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

Posts Tagged ‘administrative justice reform

Transformation: Courts and Tribunals, 2022: HMCTS and MoJ respond to the Public Accounts Committee

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I noted in 2018 the critical report from the National Audit Office (see this blog June 2018) and the subsequent report (which I labelled ‘brutal’) from the Public Accounts Committee (see this blog October 2018) on the courts and tribunals transformation programme.

Well, now the Ministry of Justice and HM Courts and Tribunals Service have come back with a series of replies, setting out the progress that has been made with the transformation programme, and setting out targets for the following 6 months.

Between November 2018 and February 2019, MoJ and HMCTS published no fewer than 6 reports, each one responding individually to the six principal criticisms made by the Public Accounts Committee.

The most fundamental question is whether the timeframe for the delivery of the transformation programme is being adhered to. The report on Recommendation 1 – which deals with this question – acknowledges that parts of the programme have not yet been started while listing a substantial body of completed work.

Other responses deal with:

  • the impact of the transformation programme on users;
  • engagement with stakeholders;
  • the financial implications of the transformation programme on the wider justice system;
  • evaluating the impact of the reform programme on access to justice and the fairness of the justice system; and
  • balancing the portfolio of change projects to ensure that there is some flexibility and an ability to respond to financial pressures.

Interestingly, less than a month after the publication of the latest of these reports a Press Release in March stated that at least some aspects of the Transformation programme will not be completed until 2023. (See https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/breaking-hmcts-delays-1bn-courts-reform-by-a-year/5069501.article)

There is a lot of detail in the reports. They can be found by going to https://www.gov.uk/government/news/response-to-public-accounts-committee-transforming-courts-and-tribunals

This links to each of the six individual responses.

In January 2019, the Justice Select Committee announced that it too would be conducting an inquiry into the Courts and Tribunals Reform programme. See https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/justice-committee/inquiries/parliament-2017/court-and-tribunals-reform-inquiry-17-19/

It is right that such a major reform programme should be carefully scrutinised by MPs. They can help to ensure that the transformation, that I think is needed, is delivered.

 

 

 

 

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

Written by lwtmp

February 28, 2019 at 2:56 pm

Administrative Justice Council – new website

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In 2019, the Administrative Justice Council launched its new website. Go to https://ajc-justice.co.uk/ for further information.

Transforming administrative justice – current projects: progress reports

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Information about the progress of the Transformation: Courts and Tribunals 2022 programme has been emerging from HMTCS. (See this blog October 2 October 2018).

In this note I look in a little more detail at projects in the administrative justice area.

In their recent progress update, HMCTS listed 5 projects that were either started or in prospect relating to administrative justice. These were:

  1. Upper Tribunal: Building the IT infrastucture to enable new digital ways of working across Upper Tribunal.
  2. Social Security and Child Support (SSCS): Establishing a new, digital process to improve the experience of appellants, allowing them to submit, track and manage their appeal online.  Pilot projects are already been trialled in a number of venues.
  3. Immigration and Asylum Chamber  (IAC): Developing the administration of the Immigration and Asylum Chamber’s service so that it can adapt according to different needs of users. It will enable case resolution both online and by video.
  4. Employment Tribunals (ET): This project will use a combination of the tribunals authorisation and the civil money claims models to develop an ET service that can change the way it works according to what the user needs. This will include the ability to resolve cases online and by video.
  5. Specialist Tribunals: The project will establish new ways of working across the tribunals, developed on a tribunal-by-tribunal basis. This includes the Pilot project enable appeals to be made to the Tax Tribunal on-line, which are being tested and evaluated.
This information has been derived and adapted from Reform Update Autumn 2018, published by HMCTS, and available at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/744235/Reform_Update_issue_2_September_2018.pdf

Transformation: Court and Tribunals 2022 – progress reports

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I have observed before that it is quite hard for someone outside HM Court and Tribunal Service to keep up to date with progress with the Transforming our Justice System, now Transformation Courts and Tribunals 2022, reform programme.

For some time there has been an occasional blog, setting out information about a number of initiatives.

In recent months, a monthly Bulletin (also called an electronic Newsletter) has been launched, the latest of which, published on 1 Oct  2018 contains links to a detailed report Reform Update, Autun 2018, setting out the story so far.

The transformation programme is a very substantial one – it consists of some 50 projects. Not all of them have yet started and very few have as yet been completed. Many ideas are, quite rightly, being tested and evaluated before being nationally rolled out.

The easiest way to get an overview of the projects and their progress is to look at the summary table of the report (pp 22-26).

I will be adding further detail on these projects, dividing the information into broad subject headings.

The monthly bulletin can be accessed by clicking on the link under the heading Newsletter at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/hmcts-reform-programme.

The Reform Update report can be seen at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/744235/Reform_Update_issue_2_September_2018.pdf

The Inside HMCTS blog can be accessed at https://insidehmcts.blog.gov.uk/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Administrative Justice Council starts work

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The creation of the Administrative Justice Council – replacing the Administrative Justice Forum – was announced in December 2017.

It has now started work. In July 2018 it held its first meeting, the minutes of which have just been published.

The Council is a relatively large body – some 40 participants – who have a wide range of experience of the administrative justice system. The overall direction of the programme is led by a steering group drawn from the wider Council membership. Much of its work is to be done through sub-committees. The first two sub-committees – academic, and pro bono – started work before the first full meeting and fed their progress to date into the main Council meeting. In addition, specific projects will be led by ad hoc Working Groups.

From the minutes, it is clear that much of the first meeting was taken up with scene- setting with individual members explaining their work in the administrative justice field to the other members of the group.

Two particular themes in the minutes caught my eye:

First, it is clear that there are interesting developments taking place in Scotland and Wales which, following devolution, have the freedom to develop their own approaches – this is particularly the case for Wales.

Second, there was an interesting contribution from the Secretary of the Ombudsman Association, proposing that there should be a workshop bringing together people from the tribunals and ombudsmen worlds to look in some detail at how they approached their work, and to explore ways in which their work could be made more interactive.

Obviously these are early days, but I will be keeping and eye on how the Council develops and the contributions it may make to the development of administrative justice policy and its delivery.

Information about the Administrative Council can be found at https://justice.org.uk/ajc/

This page gives a direct link to the minutes of the meeting.

 

 

 

 

Administrative Justice in Wales and Comparative Perspectives

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Written by lwtmp

September 23, 2017 at 11:22 am