Dealing with court backlogs must be HMCTS priority

HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has announced it is extending the timeline of some of its reform programmes and paused implementation of others as it tackles the court backlogs.*

“HMCTS is making sensible decisions about prioritising work given the dual challenges of delivering the court reform programme and tackling the huge court backlogs,” said Law Society of England and Wales president Nick Emmerson.

“Clearly, proper investment in our justice system rather than decades of cuts would have meant the court service didn’t find itself in this difficult situation.

“But the backlogs, which are delaying justice for victims, witnesses and defendants must be dealt with urgently.

“Pausing implementation of further phases of the Common Platform project in the criminal courts makes sense because the work involving training judges and lawyers on the updated system would have detracted from tackling the backlogs.

“Trying to implement major IT changes while dealing with an unprecedented backlog of cases always appeared a questionable approach.

“We have warned previously of the importance of not rushing development.** Extending plans in the civil, family and tribunals to March 2025 means the process may take longer to develop but will avoid costly errors and rework in the long run.

“The further delays in delivering the possession project in the civil jurisdiction are disappointing but understandable, particularly given the significant changes heralded by the Renters Reform Bill. It makes no sense to digitise the existing process when you are about to fundamentally change it.

“However, the UK government has previously indicated that it intended to defer the implementation of the abolition of no-fault eviction until after the digitisation of the existing court process. We would welcome clarification that the government has now recognised that this approach should be reconsidered.

“In order to be successful in dealing with the backlogs and instigating court reform, HMCTS must retain a strong workforce possessing the required knowledge and expertise to deliver a quality service.”

Notes to editors

*See the HMCTS announcement

**See our research on online court services, which sets out proposals that can help the government resolve the issues with the online court services, make an online justice system that is fit for purpose, and which works for the public and legal professionals.

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