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MoJ consultation on Transforming Our Justice System – Law Society response

Posted: 13 December 2016

The Law Society has responded to the Ministry of Justice consultation which invited views on broad proposals for 'assisted digital' services as they move to greater digitisation of the court system, composition of the judicial panel available for tribunals and putting certain low level criminal processes online.

The Society believes that accessibility will be integral to the success of any digital services; an inaccessible system which prevents users from engaging with the courts cannot be considered as a process that delivers justice.

This fundamental driving force should not be limited to the design and development of any assisted digital service but to all aspects of the proposed reforms, end to end, from virtual hearings to digitised divorce.

We have also raised concerns about the proposal to reduce a three-panel tribunal to a single judge. To introduce this as the default position risks denying adequate expertise to some of the most vulnerable tribunal users.

Offences that have been recommended for an online conviction pilot programme are unlikely to be of sufficient volume and therefore cannot test how robust the system is. In any event, there does not appear to be adequate consideration or safeguarding to address or mitigate the risks of the long term consequences for a person who chooses to enter a guilty plea online.