HM Courts & Tribunals Service’s £1.2 billion programme to modernise courts is hugely ambitious and on a scale which has never been attempted anywhere before. Transforming the courts and tribunals system in this way will change how people access justice by digitising paper-based services, moving some types of cases online, introducing virtual hearings, closing courts and centralising customer services. Such sweeping changes will be extremely challenging to deliver. The performance of HMCTS to date shows that it has much to learn if it intends to do everything it plans. Despite extending its timetable from four to six years, HMCTS has already fallen behind, delivering only two-thirds of what it expected to at this stage, and it still has not shared a sufficiently well developed plan of what it is trying to achieve.
The pressure to deliver quickly and make savings is limiting HMCTS’s ability to consult meaningfully with stakeholders and risks it driving forward changes before it fully understands the impact on users and the justice system more widely. HMCTS needs to ensure that the savings expected from these reforms are genuine rather than the consequence of shunting costs to other parts of the justice system such as the police, prison service or Crown Prosecution Service, all of which have their own pressures to manage. Without a better grip on these wider issues, there is a significant risk that HCMTS will fail to deliver the benefits it expects.
Published: 20 July 2018