13.The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated widespread and unprecedented change to the operation of courts and tribunals in England and Wales. This added to the pressures on a courts system that was already under strain due to declining Government investment, reduced courts estate and outdated IT systems. Before exploring the impact of the pandemic on the justice system, we consider these pre-existing challenges.
14.During the period of austerity, the Government failed to protect the justice system. Government funding for Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) had fallen significantly in the decade preceding the pandemic (see Figure 1). In 2019/20 funding for HMCTS from the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) was 21% lower in real terms than in 2010/11. HMCTS had been able to protect some of its spending through increased court fees (set by the MOJ) and the closure of some court buildings, but its operating expenditure was nonetheless 17% lower in 2019/20 than it had been in 2010/11.
15.Successive governments have identified the courts estate and HMCTS staff as key targets for efficiency savings. Between 2010 and 2019, half of magistrates’ courts, and over a third of county courts, were closed. The number of HMCTS staff also fell during this period.
16.Accompanying shrinking court budgets during this period was a reduction in legal aid funding (see Figure 2). From 2010/11 to 2015/16 annual legal aid spending fell at a rate of around 10% per year. By 2019/20 it was 37% less in real terms than it had been in 2010-11.
17.The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO), which came into effect in April 2013, abolished legal aid for a wide range of civil disputes, including all private law family cases, most employment law matters, and most welfare benefits cases. As part of this reform package, since January 2014 any defendant whose disposable annual income is £37,500 or more is no longer eligible for criminal legal aid at the Crown Court. As a result, many who would previously have been eligible for legal aid must either pay for legal advice, try to find free support (typically from a charity such as Citizens Advice), or manage their legal dispute alone.
18.The consequence has been a significant increase in the number of cases in which one or both parties are unrepresented, particularly in private law family cases. Those who represent themselves in court proceedings create additional work for judges and court staff: hearings take longer on average, and more hearings take place that could have been ‘filtered out’ with accurate legal advice on their merits at an early stage. This added to the workload of the courts.
19.Witnesses told us that the preceding decade of declining investment in the justice system left the justice system vulnerable at the start of the pandemic. Derek Sweeting QC, former Vice-Chair, now Chair of the Bar Council, said:
“we are virtually alone in western Europe in not having maintained or increased the funding of our justice system over the last 10 to 15 years. At 39 pence per day per person, which is roughly what it costs at the moment, we are well behind comparable jurisdictions.”
20.The reduction in Government funding in the decade preceding the pandemic left courts vulnerable going into the COVID-19 crisis. A significant number of court buildings had been closed, fewer staff were employed by HMCTS and the number of litigants in person had increased.
21.In March 2014 the Ministry of Justice announced a programme to improve court and tribunal services. Known as the HMCTS reform programme, its aim was to simplify court procedures and move certain activities online, thereby reducing demand for court buildings. Planned reforms included the introduction of new IT systems to support remote hearings, the closure of court buildings and enhanced data collection to inform continuous improvement.
22.£700 million was allocated to civil courts and tribunals and a further £270 million to the criminal justice system. Once completed, HMCTS expected to reduce the number of cases held in physical courtrooms by 2.4 million cases a year, reduce annual spending by £265 million and employ 5,000 fewer staff.
23.In the years following its announcement, the progress of the reform programme was criticised by the National Audit Office (NAO) and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). Both expressed concern that HMCTS was falling behind schedule, and that attempting to deliver significant reforms at pace risked undermining access to justice. In response, HMCTS and the Ministry of Justice deferred the target date for implementing the reform programme by three years (from 2020 to 2023). The PAC and NAO later considered even the revised timetable unrealistic, and continued to express concern that HMCTS was proceeding with reform without sufficient analysis of its the impact on justice outcomes or vulnerable court users.
24.Repeated delays to the HMCTS reform programme meant that a number of planned improvements to the courts service had not been implemented by March 2020. For example:
25.Delays to the original timetable for the HMCTS reform programme meant that a number of planned improvements to court IT systems had not been implemented by the time the COVID-19 pandemic suddenly rendered courts reliant on remote technology.
26.The Ministry of Justice was involved in Exercise Cygnus, the 2016 government simulation of a flu outbreak, but it only considered the impact of a pandemic on offender management. The potential impact of an outbreak on court operations was not considered. HMCTS annual reports identify risks to the effective operations of the courts, but did not cover operational threats on the scale of the pandemic.
27.The courts were not prepared for disruption on the scale caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2016 Government simulation of a flu outbreak, referred to as Exercise Cygnus, did not consider the potentially devastating impact of a pandemic on courts and tribunals in England and Wales. Risk assessments undertaken by the Ministry of Justice and HMCTS also failed to recognise the disruption that a pandemic could cause.
28.It is regrettable that the potential impact of a pandemic on the courts, a crucial public service, was not considered by those responsible for overseeing the justice system. Had the risk been identified in advance, the urgent need for modernised court IT systems and additional court estate might have been recognised sooner.
29.We recommend that all future risk assessments prepared by the Government, the Ministry of Justice and HMCTS consider the impact of major threats to the operation of courts and tribunals. The results of those risk assessments should be made publicly available on at least an annual basis, and include a statement of the steps that have been taken to manage the identified risks. It is essential that the operation of courts and tribunals be adequately protected as part of all future Government risk planning.
30.The extent to which the Government adequately prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic remains unclear. The Government has not published any documentation regarding the implementation of the recommendations from Exercise Cygnus, other than a redacted version of the initial 2016 Exercise Cygnus report.
31.We recommend that the Government publish all papers and minutes relating to Exercise Cygnus including a statement of the actions that were taken in response to its recommendations before March 2020.
32.At the outset of the pandemic in mid-March 2020 the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP, and the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Rt Hon Lord Burnett of Maldon, emphasised the importance of maintaining the administration of justice. To reduce social interaction in courts and tribunals, HMCTS, the Ministry of Justice and the judiciary variously acted to:
33.HMCTS also received an additional £150m in Government funding to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding is intended to cover: (a) new technology to enable remote hearings; (b) additional temporary courtrooms, referred to as ‘Nightingale courtrooms’; (c) additional personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning across the HMCTS estate; and (d) additional staffing and judicial resources.
34.The Government recognises that the greatest challenges lie in operating the criminal courts during the pandemic, citing in particular “the safe and secure operation of Jury trials in a socially distanced environment”. A greater proportion of the recovery funding has therefore been allocated to criminal court services than to civil and family court services or tribunal services. As at 31 January 2021, approximately half of the allocated £150 million had been spent.
35.Box 1 summarises the key changes to the operation of courts and tribunals in England and Wales during and after the first UK-wide lockdown.
36.The Government’s response to the pandemic also involved widespread use of emergency powers from existing legislation and the passing of new laws. We will consider their effect on the justice system in a subsequent report for this inquiry focused on emergency powers.
37.The most significant change to the operation of courts and tribunals during the pandemic was the move to remote hearings. Delays to the HMCTS reform programme meant that courts staff and users remained reliant on IT that witnesses described as “antiquated” and “virtually below sea level”. Courts and tribunals nonetheless adapted quickly, making use of the limited technology available to deliver remote hearings.
38.The number of cases heard each day in England and Wales using audio and video technology increased fivefold from late March to late April 2020 (see Figure 3). The Lord Chancellor said that at one stage during the pandemic “four out of every five cases were being heard remotely”.
39.In late April 2020, HMCTS provided criminal courts with a cloud-based video platform (CVP) for remote hearings. By 10 May 2020, the platform was live in 34 magistrates’ courts and 12 Crown Court centres, and more than 2,000 hearings in the magistrates’ courts and Crown Court had taken place using the CVP.
40.The speed with which the courts system responded to the challenges of the pandemic was impressive. Judges, court staff, lawyers and HMCTS should be credited with keeping the justice system functioning. The Lord Chief Justice characterised the courts’ response to the pandemic as “quite remarkable”, noting the “astonishing amount of innovation and hard work on the part of judges, courts service staff and those more widely involved in legal proceedings”. These efforts were a “marked contrast … to what has been going on in many parts of the world”. Similarly, the Lord Chancellor said:
“Almost uniquely in jurisdictions across the world, we were able to keep the wheels of justice turning in a way that I do not think any of us could have foreseen at the beginning of this crisis … The numbers of cases that were being heard were impressive.”
Note: The dashed line from late April to late May 2020 covers a period for which data is unavailable. The dashed line from late December 2020 to early January 2021 covers a period where fewer cases were reported due to the break for Christmas.
Sources: HMCTS, ‘Courts and tribunals data on audio and video technology use during coronavirus outbreak’, (30 April 2020): [accessed 21 January 2021] and HMCTS, ‘HMCTS weekly management information during coronavirus - March 2020 to January 2021’, (11 February 2021): [accessed 16 February 2021]
Note: The dashed line from late April to late May 2020 covers a period for which data is unavailable.
Sources: HMCTS, ‘Courts and tribunals data on audio and video technology use during coronavirus outbreak’, (30 April 2020): [accessed 21 January 2021] and HMCTS, ‘HMCTS weekly management information during coronavirus - March 2020 to January 2021’, (11 February 2021): [accessed 16 February 2021]
41.The sudden shift to remote hearings was not without its challenges. Some courts found it easier to adapt to remote hearings than others. In the senior and appellate courts, remote hearings were implemented with relatively little difficulty. The same could not be said for the lower courts, particularly those dealing with criminal and family cases, where the assessment of witness credibility and the need to support vulnerable litigants stretched court resources and technology to its limits.
42.Remote hearings generally worked well in the senior and appellate courts (the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court). In these courts, the judiciary and practitioners are generally well-resourced, the issues for determination are often focussed on specific points of law, litigants are rarely in court, and there is generally no live evidence to test. These advantages meant that senior courts were able to adapt quickly to remote hearings.
43.Dr Natalie Byrom, Director of Research at the Legal Education Foundation and lead author of a review of the operation of the courts early in the pandemic, said that the senior courts, “which are better supported and resourced, have been much better able to adapt to arrangements under Covid” whereas the “county and district courts, which deal with the majority of cases, and those litigants who are most vulnerable, have had a more difficult time”.
44.The Lord Chief Justice told us that: “In the High Court, something like 80% of the normal work has continued to be conducted”. The Supreme Court said that it had “been able to hear almost all planned appeals remotely: no case has been adjourned because the [court] was unable to provide a hearing”.
45.The lower courts, which deal with the majority of cases, and those litigants who are most vulnerable, have had a more difficult time.
46.The family courts in England and Wales adapted particularly rapidly to telephone and video hearings with mixed results. The Nuffield Family Justice Observatory, an independent research organisation, found that a majority of parents and family members had concerns about the way their case had been dealt with and just under half of those surveyed said they had not understood what had happened during the hearing.
47.The increase in the number of litigants in person in recent years (see paragraph 18) caused particular difficulties for remote hearings in the county, district and family courts. The Public Law Project, an independent national legal charity, and the Council of Her Majesty’s Circuit Judges, the representative body of Circuit Judges in England and Wales, reported that virtual hearings were less effective where parties were unrepresented. Attending court is a stressful and intimidating experience for court users at the best of times. These stresses were increased for litigants in person, who did not have anyone to provide pre- or post-hearing explanations or support, and who had to negotiate the courts system and all of its recent changes with little or no guidance.
48.Remote proceedings in criminal courts have been particularly challenging. Juries of twelve pose obvious difficulties for social distancing. In other hearings, attendance in person may nonetheless be required. The Crown Prosecution Service said that where witness evidence was being taken, or during complex criminal hearings, it was vital that “a prosecutor is present, visible and available to liaise with victims, witnesses and other parties at the court. In these cases, both before and during the court hearing, a level of face-to-face interaction is required that the technology is not yet able to replicate.”
49.That is not to say that all types of hearing in the lower courts were ill-suited to remote hearings. The Council of Her Majesty’s Circuit Judges said that virtual proceedings were particularly appropriate during “case management hearings, interlocutory applications, hearing legal argument and delivering judgment, particularly where parties are represented”.
50.Remote hearings also appear to work well in commercial cases, where litigants and practitioners are generally well resourced. Commercial practitioners appear particularly enthusiastic about the continued use of virtual hearings in the future.
51.The rapid adoption of remote technology had an uneven impact across the courts service. Senior and appellate courts adapted relatively well to audio and video hearings. Here, the judiciary and practitioners are generally well-resourced, the issues for determination are often focussed on specific points of law and there is generally no live evidence to test. The lower courts faced greater difficulty, particularly when assessing witness evidence and attempting to cater for unrepresented litigants.
52.Virtual hearings appear to have been effective where there has been: (a) adequate and fully functioning technology; (b) with which all parties are fully conversant; (c) deployed in preliminary, interlocutory or procedural cases.
53.The swift transition to online justice was not always smooth. Many witnesses reported technical difficulties with virtual hearings. The common IT platforms envisaged by the HMCTS reform programme had not been rolled out at the start of the pandemic, and witnesses reported delays to hearings as a result of switching between different pieces of software.
54.This created difficulties for the court staff and members of the judiciary responsible for ensuring hearings went ahead. The Council of Her Majesty’s Circuit Judges said:
“At the start of lock down, the immediate challenge was that the Court Service lacked proper IT and computer hardware … That such hearings progressed at all was due to everyone involved learning daily by mistakes and operating a system on a ‘make do and mend’ basis. There was limited if any training provided. This position was exacerbated by inconsistency of approach as to which operating platform should be used.”
55.Dr Byrom said that additional resources were needed to equip judges and court staff with adequate technology and training to conduct remote hearings effectively: “in the hearings that we captured data on, often it was the judge’s technology which was letting the hearing down and causing issues.”
56.The burden of managing the technological challenge fell heavily on a limited number of court staff. The Council of Her Majesty’s Circuit Judges said:
“The pressures and strains on court staff cannot be underestimated; they have had to implement significant changes in working practices at very short notice using inadequate, poorly equipped IT systems with limited training or guidance being provided. Such training as was provided was often dependent on it being passed on from one to another with inevitable gaps in knowledge becoming apparent.”
57.Technical difficulties in running remote hearings also had a significant impact on court users and litigants. Dr Byrom said “nearly half of all hearings in our sample were beset by technical difficulties. This really matters because it drastically affects people’s perceptions of the fairness of the hearing that they have partaken in”.
58.Judy Goldsmith, a welfare benefit appeals caseworker for Citizens Advice Stevenage, said that poor IT systems had led to the adjournment of cases and harm to her clients:
“In one case the appellant had given extremely comprehensive evidence in relation to the mobility component of PIP [Personal Independence Payment], which had lasted almost an hour. The Judge then asked if I had any questions. Although I could hear, I could not be heard, and the Judge decided in the interest of fairness to halt the proceedings. The appellant did not want to continue without me present but now faces another wait and the prospect of revisiting evidence already given in detail. When I spoke to the appellant after, he was extremely distressed, as he suffers from mental health difficulties and it had caused him significant stress preparing for and taking part in that hearing only to find he has to do it all again.”
59.A lack of familiarity with IT also gave rise to security risks and the potential for confidential information to be disclosed. The Public Law Project said that during a break in a case before a judgment was handed down: “one participant disconnected their video connection but forgot to mute their microphone. This led to them inadvertently broadcasting their informal discussions with colleagues and some frantic emailing to alert them to what they had done”.
60.The decision on the suitability of hearing a particular case, or cases, for a remote hearing was and remains a matter for the presiding judge or magistrate. Witnesses reported that different technological capabilities amongst the judiciary led to inconsistency in the use of remote hearings. The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives said: “whilst technology confident judges were proceeding with remote hearings, less confident judges were asking for people to physically appear in court”.
61.Lawyers, judges and court staff faced considerable challenges to adjust to remote hearings in short order. We pay tribute to the efforts made to keep the justice system operating during the pandemic despite challenges posed by outdated court IT systems.
62.Acknowledging the significant efforts of those working in the courts system should not obscure the scale of the challenges that they faced. Drastically reduced funding for the justice system in the preceding decade left courts and tribunals in a difficult place going into this period of crisis.
63.The pandemic has highlighted the necessity for courts and tribunals to be furnished with adequate funding and technology. The modernisation and digitisation of courts and tribunals has the potential to strengthen the rule of law by improving access to the law and the timely delivery of justice.
64.We recommend that the Government sets out a timetable within three months for implementing the HMCTS reform programme, including a clear commitment to the funding that will be provided to ensure its prompt implementation.
65.We recommend that the Government ensures training and guidance is available to all judges and court staff operating virtual hearings urgently and, at the latest, by the end of 2021. It is vital that those working in courts are comfortable with the technology used for remote hearings, and that they adopt a consistent approach to its implementation and use.
66.The challenges of adapting to remote technology meant that its potential benefits were not always fully realised. The cloud-based video platform introduced to the criminal courts in April 2020 (the CVP) enabled magistrates’ and Crown courts across England and Wales to be held remotely. Since its introduction, use of the platform has declined. By September 2020, the Crown Prosecution Service was making CVP applications in only approximately 15% of cases. As shown in Figure 3, after an initial surge in the use of audio and video hearings at the start of the pandemic, their use plateaued during the rest of 2020.
67.Remand hearings—where a court determines whether a suspect should be kept in custody pending further court appearances—initially took place remotely on the CVP platform. Holding these hearings virtually reduced the time and cost incurred in transporting defendants to court buildings to appear in person. Virtual remand hearings also reduce the delay between defendants being detained and appearing before the court, allow solicitors to represent multiple defendants and appear before different courts more easily, and free up traditional court rooms that would otherwise be used for such hearings.
68.Virtual remand hearings are not without their challenges. Research released by HMCTS in 2018 found that defendants can struggle to fully participate in remand hearings and their ability to consult with their lawyer may be compromised. Nonetheless, the Lord Chancellor described video remand hearings as “a singular success story with regard to the response to Covid in our courts. It allows remote hearings to be held rather than the defendants being brought to court in the van”.
69.In October 2020 the National Police Chief’s Council confirmed that police forces would stop using virtual remand hearings from December 2020 due to cost and service pressures. A spokesperson said:
“At the height of the coronavirus pandemic police forces took on considerable extra responsibilities, at a significant cost to the service, in order to support the wider criminal justice system. As an emergency provision many forces supported HMCTS with video remand hearings from custody suites … Chief constables have taken the decision to maintain video remand hearings from custody suites until it is no longer financially and operationally sustainable locally. Forces will stop the use of it altogether from December onwards.”
70.The Lord Chancellor explained in December 2020 that, because of legislative constraints, only police officers have the power to exercise the custodial functions required to carry out virtual remand hearings. A change in legislation, enabling a wider range of custody officers to support virtual remand hearings, is planned for later this year. In the meantime, the Lord Chancellor said he was working with the Home Office to “develop practical solutions” to support virtual remand hearings.
71.Those efforts appear to have had limited success to date. In January 2021, Richard Miller, the Head of Legal Aid at The Law Society of England and Wales, told the House of Commons Justice Committee that all police forces had withdrawn their support for video remand hearings except where the defendant had COVID-19 symptoms or a diagnosis. Seven unnamed police forces had withdrawn their support for video remand hearings even in cases of a COVID-19 diagnosis or symptoms.
72.The Criminal Justice Chief Inspectors have considered the move away from remote technology in the criminal courts to be a missed opportunity: “it now seems that there is a clear judicial preference for in-person court attendance. As listing is a local judicial function, there is no established national protocol with a set of principles for remote participation. Given the severe problems in the growing listing backlog, this is a lost opportunity.”
73.The decline in use of the Cloud Video Platform (the common IT platform developed for use in the criminal courts) represents a missed opportunity to make the best use of technology to ease pressures on the justice system.
74.The Cloud Video Platform has not been adopted as widely as might have been expected and its potential to ease demand on the criminal justice system has not been fully realised. The withdrawal of police support for video remand hearings on this Platform due to cost and service concerns is contributing to the already significant pressures on courts and prisons. This is a cause for serious concern.
75.Video remand hearings reduce the delay between defendants being detained and appearing in court and reduce the need for prison and court services to transport defendants to physical hearings. We welcome plans to introduce legislation that will enable greater use of video remand hearings.
76.We recommend that the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office and police forces across England and Wales make concerted efforts to increase the use of video remand hearings as a matter of urgent priority. The Government must report to Parliament on the progress made within six months.
77.We recommend that the Government prepares and publishes a statement setting out: (a) the lessons it has learned from the uneven adoption of new technologies during the pandemic; (b) how these lessons will inform the future development and implementation of the HMCTS reform programme; and (c) how the Government plans to support the courts and other public services to make full and effective use of new technologies introduced in future.
78.Access to justice is fundamental to the rule of law. It requires that the protection of the law be accessible to all. Legal processes should also be open and transparent to allow for scrutiny of proceedings and enhance public confidence in the justice system. The media and members of the public must be able to observe court hearings for justice to be seen to be done. Any adaptation of court operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, whether short-term or long-term, must not come at the expense of these essential constitutional requirements.
79.The pandemic presented considerable challenges for:
80.Some witnesses expressed enthusiasm for remote hearings as a possible means of meeting these challenges, although others told us that remote hearings had excluded certain litigants and reduced public access to the courts.
81.The shift to remote hearings improved access to justice in some respects, but has also risked excluding court users, undermining public faith in the justice system and reducing access to legal advice.
82.The rapid adoption of remote hearings across the courts service enhanced access to justice in some respects. Most straightforwardly, remote hearings reduced social contact and the potential transmission of COVID-19, enabling more hearings to take place safely.
83.Remote hearings also had positive effects on the efficient operation of the courts. We heard that they led to reductions in court waiting times, freed up capacity for other cases and improved the efficiency of court listings. The Crown Prosecution Service explained:
“Virtual hearings also have potential benefits for more efficient court listing … Courts will also be able to evenly distribute hearings, thus avoiding bulk listing in one court centre, where another operates at reduced capacity. Importantly, utilising virtual hearings in this way will enable HMCTS to use what Crown Court capacity it has for jury trials which is the most pressing requirement currently, and which require the physical attendance of most parties in court.”
84.Some court users faced fewer difficulties attending remote hearings than physical ones, which meant that their use increased access to justice for some. Transform Justice said: “Prisoners are particularly keen to have video hearings since they thus avoid travelling in an uncomfortable prison van, missing out on meals and risking having to move prison”. The Sheffield ME and Fibromyalgia Group said that the move to online hearings had “overwhelmingly benefited” its disabled clients who were no longer required to travel great distances to attend hearings.
85.Susan Acland-Hood, the then Chief Executive of HMCTS, also told us that autistic litigants preferred the remote format.
86.Other witnesses said that remote hearings were perceived as less intimidating or demanding for litigants. The Public Law Project cited an example from their research of “a more equitable atmosphere” that made the client “feel more comfortable and less like an ‘imposter’.”
87.Attending court can be a stressful and alienating experience. The outcome of a court case can be life-changing for the individuals involved. That is true of many family, employment and asylum cases where emotions run high and users’ perceptions of fairness are fragile.
88.Remote technology heightened these challenges in a number of ways. Early reports on the use of remote hearings in the family courts found that a lack of face to face contact during audio and video hearings made it “extremely difficult” to conduct hearings with an appropriate level of empathy and humanity. As one judge put it “[t]he court process is more important than simply being an administrative adjudication. It’s a very human set of interactions”. This risked alienating court users and undermining public faith in court processes.
89.Dr Kate Leader from the University of York cited research suggesting that virtual hearings could undermine trust in the court process. Dr Byrom cited “upsetting accounts of the impact of remote hearings on litigants in person and their attitudes and confidence. We had descriptions of remote hearings as ‘humiliating’, ‘confusing’ and ‘second-class justice’.” Derek Sweeting QC said there were some hearings “where people do not feel justice has been done unless they are there. It is very difficult to do justice unless you can hear and see people in the flesh”.
90.Remote hearings also presented real challenges for litigants with low levels of literacy and those with limited access to technology. Lacking access to basic technology and internet posed obvious challenges. So too did sharing IT equipment within a household or limited internet bandwidth. The Equality and Human Rights Commission said that those “living in remote areas are more likely to experience disruption to participation owing to slow internet speeds and many people, if they have a suitable digital device, rely on data packages for their internet connection, which can be used very quickly during a video call”.
91.Even those who were well furnished with the latest IT and a quiet place to work faced challenges. The Council of Her Majesty’s Circuit Judges said: “electronic document management is virtually impossible” for most ordinary court users. Participating in remote hearings required litigants to have access not only to adequate IT but also somewhere private in which to use it. Cris McCurley, partner at the law firm Ben Hoare Bell LLP, said “I have had hearings where people have had a room full of children because the school is closed”.
92.The shift to remote hearings may have undermined litigants’ ability to engage appropriately with courts and tribunals, potentially to the detriment of their own case. The Council of Her Majesty’s Circuit Judges expressed concern about the “difficulty of maintaining the dignity and proper solemnity of the court proceedings with some instances of defendants appearing half dressed and talking to others in their household”. Transform Justice said their research “suggested that defendants on video either ‘zoned out’ or got frustrated and behaved in an aggressive manner, which they would be less likely to display in court”. The Public Law Project said remote hearings could be more difficult to follow for non-professional court users.
93.Witnesses also told us that remote hearings were ill-suited to certain types of cases, such as benefits appeals, where an important function of physical hearings has been to enable judicial observation of claimants’ conditions.
94.The Lord Chancellor told us that there was support available for vulnerable litigants during remote hearings:
“HMCTS, and indeed the judges themselves, provide assistance and support. There is technical assistance. We have information and a phone line for court users if they need particular help with accessibility. If there are enduring problems, and it is clear to a judge or tribunal chair that the remote technology is not working in the interests of justice, they have the independent discretion to make that alteration and go for a real live hearing.”
95.In August 2020 the Government announced £3.1 million in additional funding to enhance free legal advice and support for litigants without legal support.
96.Remote proceedings were, and continue to be, necessary to maintain the administration of justice during the pandemic. In appropriate cases, audio and video hearings have the potential to enhance access to justice by increasing the number of hearings that can take place, driving greater efficiency in court timetabling, and improving access for court users with disabilities or other special requirements.
97.Remote hearings are not appropriate in all cases or for all types of court users. Reduced face to face contact risks alienating litigants, as it can be difficult to conduct remote hearings with an appropriate level of empathy and humanity in sensitive cases.
98.The remote format also poses a number of practical challenges that make it more difficult for ordinary people to fully participate or to represent themselves. Limited IT access or bandwidth, distractions at home, sensory impairments, or English as a second language are just some of the features that threaten to undermine effective participation.
99.Access to justice requires that the protection of the law be accessible to all. There should not be one law for the rich, legally represented or digitally well-furnished, and another for everyone else. To limit the potentially exclusionary effects of remote hearings, greater support for court users from HMCTS, judges and courts staff is required.
100.We recommend that the Government provides simple and accessible guidance for ordinary court users, available in advance of remote hearings, providing information on the technological practicalities of attending different kinds of hearing.
101.We recommend that the Government ensures sufficient guidance is available to all judges and court staff on how to facilitate the needs of court users and ensure procedural justice. It is vital that those working in the justice system are sufficiently equipped to cater for common challenges and to secure a fair process for all court users.
103.A key component of access to justice is the availability of prompt, accurate and affordable legal advice. Witnesses reported that access to legal advice had been enhanced in some respects by remote hearings. Some legal advisers reported being more readily available online than they would have been physically. Those working in the commercial sector reported enhanced international client engagement. Other witnesses suggested that legal advice was cheaper and more accessible given the limited travel time and costs associated with remote meetings. However, remote hearings also created a number of barriers to access to legal advice.
104.Witnesses said that remote hearings hampered communications between court users and their legal representatives. Professor Dame Hazel Genn, Professor of Socio-Legal Studies at University College London and Director of the University College London Centre for Access to Justice, told the Committee that remote hearings created difficulties for effective communication between court users and their legal advisers, and that this could be undermining access to justice for some court users.
105.Legal professionals also struggled with the new technology, further undermining communication with their clients during hearings. Dr Byrom told us that IT difficulties made it difficult for lawyers to manage litigant expectations or effectively prepare their clients for hearings.
106.Whether there were technical difficulties or not, remote justice may have undermined personal relationships between court users and their representative. One barrister told the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory that a “huge part” of their role was “to be in a room, with a person, and to listen, understand, and give advice … This human connection is a vital part of what we do and is not something that can be readily replaced with technology”.
107.Some court users may not have had access to legal advice at all, either because they lacked the digital literacy and technology necessary to communicate with a lawyer remotely, or because they could not afford legal advice and legal aid was unavailable. James Sandbach, Director of Policy and External Affairs at Law Works, told us that the “question of who is not being picked up is critical … there have been fewer litigants in person than perhaps might have been expected at this time”. Professor Dame Hazel Genn said “all of us who work at the poverty or poor law—the social welfare—end of the system recognise that there are people who have not been coming forward or whose cases have been adjourned or held back.”
108.The cuts to the legal aid budget, which pre-dated the pandemic, were raised repeatedly by our witnesses as restricting access to legal advice and undermining access to justice (see paragraphs 17 and 18 on the reduction in legal aid funding in the years preceding pandemic and the consequent increase in litigants in person). Carol Storer, Interim Director at the Legal Action Group, said: “even before lockdown people found it hard to find advice because of the reduction in legal aid and financial pressures since the years of austerity. Advice agencies and charities had financial problems. Some organisations have had to furlough staff, even though they have had a huge number of inquiries.”
109.Legal aid is one essential way that the state secures access to justice for those who might not otherwise be able to afford legal representation. Accurate legal advice at an early stage can help to reduce the burden on the courts by facilitating the practical resolution of disputes in advance of litigation and by helping to filter out unmeritorious cases. The absence of effective legal advice and support can lead to additional costs for other parts of society, such as the benefits system, local government, and the police. James Sandbach said: “legal aid should not necessarily be seen as a silo, but rather as part of a package of support that people need when they interact with the justice system and public services.” The Law Society of England and Wales emphasised that “improving legal aid and ensuring more people are represented in court will also be vital in ensuring the courts run as efficiently as possible and clearing the backlogs.”
110.The reduction in the courts’ overall workload during the pandemic has had a detrimental impact on some sectors of the legal profession, particularly for those working in publicly funded sectors. Simon Davis, former President of the Law Society of England and Wales, said the reduction in court activity “meant a cessation in cash, put bluntly.” Caroline Goodwin QC, former Chair of the Criminal Bar Association, described the pandemic as “the most crippling episode ever, for junior barristers and senior barristers alike”.
111.The impact of the reduction in caseload on barristers’ incomes was highlighted by a Bar Council report, which said that publicly funded barristers had seen a 69% reduction in fee income, with that figure rising to 75% for criminal barristers. The report suggested the pandemic could undermine diversity at the Bar: “BAME, women and state-educated barristers are triply hit—they are more likely to (a) be in publicly funded work (b) face greater financial pressures and (c) be primary carers for young children”. Reduced diversity at the Bar could further undermine the diversity of the judiciary in years to come.
112.Derek Sweeting QC said the decline in the number of hearings during the pandemic could lead to barristers leaving the profession and that this would affect the quality of advocacy and justice: “If you deplete the resource, it is bound to have an impact because, at the cutting edge of advocacy, barristers provide in the senior courts the resource that the justice system relies on.” The Lord Chief Justice also expressed concern that the significant reduction in Crown Court trials could lead to many professionals leaving the criminal Bar altogether. This could, in turn, lead to a reduction in suitable appointees to the judiciary.
113.The Lord Chancellor acknowledged that the impact of the pandemic on publicly funded sectors of the legal profession had been significant. In the month following his evidence to us, the Ministry of Justice announced increased support for unrepresented and legally aided litigants and announced that up to £51 million of public funds would be allocated to the legal aid sector.
114.Access to legal advice is an essential component of access to justice. The reduction in the courts’ overall workload has had a detrimental impact on the publicly funded and legally aided sectors of the legal profession, giving rise to a real possibility of a reduction in the number of available legal advisers practising in these areas. We are particularly concerned that some users may have been unable to access legal advice at all during the pandemic, with the consequence that they have been unable to enforce their legal rights. The reduction in legal aid funding over the preceding decade has exacerbated these barriers to justice.
115.Affordable legal representation not only enhances access to justice, it also supports the efficient operation of the justice system. Those who represent themselves in court proceedings can create additional work for judges and court staff: hearings take longer on average, and more hearings take place that could have been resolved by alternative routes with accurate legal advice at an early stage. Improving legal aid will help to ensure that the courts run as efficiently as possible to reduce the growing case backlog (see Chapter 3).
116.We welcome the additional funding that has been allocated to the legal aid sector, but the scale of the challenges for court users and the legal sector suggests that considerable additional funding will be required in the coming years.
117.We recommend that the Government further increases the funds available for legal aid to match the reality of need.
118.Remote hearings have the potential to enhance the transparency of legal proceedings, enabling journalists to observe more proceedings than if they had to travel between courts and providing convenient access at home for the public, subject to available technology.
119.In the senior and appellate courts, remote hearings were relatively accessible to the public. In lower courts they were more difficult to access. Central to this problem were the variable and incomplete listings for courts. Tristan Kirk, the courts correspondent for the London Evening Standard, said:
“This is an area where problems are long-standing but have been exacerbated by the pandemic. The listing systems in place in the courts of England and Wales are not fit for purpose, in my view. In a time of crisis in late March and early April, some parts of the system collapsed, which should be of great concern to anyone interested in open and fair justice.”
120.Transform Justice said: “Information on what has been happening to court hearings in the pandemic has been almost impossible to obtain since magistrates’ court lists are not available to the public.” Analysis of publicly available court lists published over one week in May 2020 revealed that only a minority of County Court centres (14 of 68) published notices with details on how to attend hearings alongside listings information. These notices varied considerably in terms of content.
121.Dr Byrom said that the pandemic had:
“exposed the extent to which the current system for collecting and publishing primary legal information, such as listings, transcripts and judgments, relies on in-person workarounds. These urgently need reform. We have a world-leading service for providing free access to legislation in the National Archives, and we need the same quality of service for judgments which are equally part of the law in this country, and yet beyond the reach of many people who need to access them.”
122.Where press and public observance was possible, there were issues with arranging access and the technical quality of the feed. The Public Law Project reported:
“A number of the interviewees’ hearings had a press or public presence. While some saw the process of gaining access to remotely observe hearings as ‘quite easy to arrange,’ others noted instances immediately before a hearing where there was a struggle for press to be given the login details to observe the hearing remotely.”
123.Tristan Kirk said that the quality of the sound on remote proceedings was often “not good enough … It far too often cuts out, is not of sufficient quality, and for reporters every word is important and it’s vital that we are able to hear properly.” While he was enthusiastic about the possibilities of virtual hearings for open justice, he noted other downsides such as the difficulty of accessing relevant documents and checking facts:
“On a virtual hearing, almost all of the personal interaction between the reporters and the barristers, as well as the court staff, is lost. This is an important part of the job, checking facts and spellings, learning a little more about the case you are covering, and possibly picking up tips on other cases to follow.”
125.We recommend that HMCTS sets out how it will improve the availability of information in the courts for the press and the public. This should include timely, complete, and consistent court listings (for physical and remote hearings alike), documents relating to cases (such as written arguments in appropriate cases), and free access to all court judgments. This work should be integrated with efforts to improve the collection, management, and publication of data on the courts (see Chapter 4).
8 HMCTS, ‘HMCTS annual reports and plans’, (8 October 2020): [accessed 2 March 2021]
9 House of Commons Library, Court Closures and Access to Justice, Debate Pack, , 18 June 2019
10 Between 2013 and 2019, the number of staff employed by HMCTS fell by 17 per cent. See ‘Tribunals struggle as backlog of cases reaches highest level since fee abolition’, GQ Littler (26 February 2019): [accessed 3 March 2021]
11 Ministry of Justice, ‘Legal aid statistics: July to September 2020’, (17 December 2020): [accessed 1 March 2021]
13 Private law family cases are commonly divorce cases or disputes between parents who have split-up about who their child should live with or have contact with. Private law family cases may be contrasted with public law family cases where a local authority, or the NSPCC, steps in to protect a child on child welfare grounds. Private law family cases remain in scope in certain cases where there is documentary evidence of domestic abuse.
14 With the exception of employment-related discrimination.
15 Legal aid remains for welfare benefits appeals on a point of law to the upper tribunal and subsequent appeals, and for judicial review.
16 The proportion of cases where both parties had legal representation in private law family cases almost halved between 2013 and 2020: Ministry of Justice, Family Court Statistics Quarterly: July to September 2020 (18 December 2020): [accessed 2 March 2021]. The number of unrepresented defendants has also increased in the Crown Court since 2013: Ministry of Justice, Unrepresented Defendants: Perceived effects on the Crown Court in England and Wales - practitioners’ perspectives (2019): [accessed 2 March 2021]
17 Judicial College, Equal Treatment Bench Book (February 2021): [accessed 2 March 2021]
18 See, for example, (Simon Davis, Caroline Goodwin QC ) and written evidence from Professor Gráinne McKeever () and Dr Kate Leader ().
19 (Derek Sweeting QC)
20 Ministry of Justice, ‘Joint letter from Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Senior President of Tribunals and Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice’, (28 March 2014): [accessed 2 March 2021]
21 HMCTS, ‘The HMCTS reform programme’, (6 February 2019): [accessed 2 March 2021]
22 Ministry of Justice, Transforming Our Justice System (September 2016): [accessed 1 February 2021]
23 National Audit Office, Early progress in transforming courts and tribunals (Session 2017–19, HC 1001): [accessed 1 February 2021]; Public Accounts Committee, (Fifty Sixth Report, Session 2017–19, HC 976)
24 HMCTS and Ministry of Justice, Response to Public Accounts Committee: Transforming courts and tribunals (5 February 2019): [accessed January 2021]
25 Public Accounts Committee, (Second Report, Session 2019, HC 27); National Audit Office, Transforming courts and tribunals: a progress update (Session 2017–19, HC 2638): [accessed 1 February 2021]; ‘National Audit Office challenges basis of court reforms’, Legal Futures (18 January 2021): [accessed 1 February 2021]
26 Public Accounts Committee, (Fifty-Sixth Report, Session 2017–19, HC 976); HMCTS, HMCTS online event, 15 Oct 2020: Introducing the Common Platform (14 January 2021): [accessed 2 March 2021]
27 National Audit Office, Transforming courts and tribunals: a progress update (Session 2017–19, HC 2638), Figure 4: [accessed 1 February 2021]
28 Oral evidence taken before the Public Accounts Committee on 6 June 2018 (Session 2017-19) (Susan Acland-Hood)
29 (Susan Acland-Hood)
30 Public Health England, Exercise Cygnus Report (2017): [accessed 1 February 2021]
31 HMCTS, ‘HMCTS annual reports and plans’, (8 October 2020): [accessed 1 February 2021]
32 Courts and Tribunals Judiciary, Coronavirus (COVID-19) update from the Lord Chief Justice (17 March 2020) [accessed 1 February 2021] and HM Government, Courts during coronavirus pandemic: Robert Buckland statement, (18 March 2020): [accessed 1 February 2021]
33 HMCTS, Covid-19: Overview of HMCTS response (July 2020) [accessed 1 February 2021]
34 Written Answer , Session 2019-21
36 Courts and Tribunals Judiciary, Coronavirus (COVID-19): Jury trials, message from the Lord Chief Justice (17 March 2020): [accessed 1 February 2021]
37 Courts and Tribunals Judiciary, Review of court arrangements due to COVID-19, message from the Lord Chief Justice (23 March 2020): [accessed 1 February 2021]
39 Coronavirus Act 2020,
40 HM Government, HMCTS daily operational summary on courts and tribunals during coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak (27 March 2020): [accessed 1 February 2021]
41 Nuffield Family Justice Observatory, Remote hearings in the family justice system: a rapid consultation (May 2020): [accessed 1 February 2021]
42 The Criminal Procedure (Amendment No. 2) (Coronavirus) Rules 2020 ()
43 The Civil Justice Council and the Legal Education Foundation, The impact of Covid-19 measures on the civil justice system: Report and recommendations (May 2020): [accessed 1 February 2021]
44 Courts and Tribunals Judiciary, Jury trials to resume this month (11 May 2020): [accessed 1 February 2021]
45 The Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 2) (Coronavirus) Rules 2020 ()
46 HM Government, PM: A New Deal for Britain (30 June 2020): [accessed 4 March 2021]
47 HMCTS, ‘Court and tribunal recovery update in response to coronavirus’, (1 July 2020): [accessed 1 February 2021]
48 Ministry of Justice, £50 million for legal aid sector (21 August 2020): [accessed 1 February 2021]
49 The Right Honourable Sir Terence Etherton and The Right Honourable Robert Buckland QC MP, 124th Update: Practice Direction Amendments (21 August 2020): [accessed 1 February 2021]
50 HMCTS, COVID-19: Update on the HMCTS response for criminal courts in England & Wales (September 2020): [accessed 1 February 2021]
51 The Prosecution of Offences (Custody Time Limits) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (). These regulations came into force on 28 September 2020 and have effect until 28 June 2021.
52 Courts and Tribunals Judiciary, Message from the Lord Chief Justice: latest COVID-19 restrictions (5 January 2021): [accessed 5 February 2021]
53 HMCTS, Crown Courts that have resumed jury trials (29 January 2021): [accessed 1 February 2021]
54 HMCTS, Courts and tribunals additional capacity during coronavirus outbreak: Nightingale courts, (11 March 2021): [accessed 15 March 2021]
55 (Rt Hon Lord Burnett of Maldon)
56 (Professor Dame Hazel Genn)
57 Courts and tribunals reported that the numbers of cases heard each day in England and Wales with the use of audio and video technology increased from under 1,000 in the last week of March 2020 to approximately 3,000 by mid-April. HMCTS, ‘Courts and tribunals data on audio and video technology use during coronavirus outbreak’, (30 April 2020): [accessed 1 February 2021]
58 (Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP)
59 A cloud-based video platform is an internet-based video meeting service that works like Skype or Zoom.
60 Criminal Justice Chief Inspectors, Impact of the pandemic on the Criminal Justice System (13 January 2021): [accessed 1 February 2021]
61 (Professor Dame Hazel Genn), (Dr Natalie Byrom), (Carol Storer OBE), (Simon Davis), and (Caroline Goodwin QC). See, also, Criminal Justice Chief Inspectors, Impact of the pandemic on the Criminal Justice System (13 January 2021): [accessed 1 February 2021]
62 (Rt Hon Lord Burnett of Maldon)
63 (Rt Hon Lord Burnett of Maldon). See, also, (Professor Richard Susskind OBE).
64 (Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP)
65 Written evidence from the Transparency Project () and the Public Law Project ()
66 The Civil Justice Council and the Legal Education Foundation, The impact of Covid-19 measures on the civil justice system: Report and recommendations (May 2020): [accessed 1 February 2021]
67 (Dr Natalie Byrom)
68 (Rt Hon Lord Burnett of Maldon)
69 Written evidence from the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (). See, also, ‘The Future of Courts’, The Practice, vol 6(5), July/August 2020: [accessed 1 February 2021]
70 (Dr Natalie Byrom)
71 Nuffield Family Justice Observatory, Remote hearings in the family justice system: reflections and experiences: follow-up consultation (September 2020): [accessed 4 March 2021]
72 Written evidence from the Public Law Project () and the Council of Her Majesty’s Circuit Judges ()
73 Nuffield Family Justice Observatory, Remote hearings in the family justice system: a rapid consultation (May 2020): [accessed 1 February 2021]
74 Written evidence from the Council of Her Majesty’s Circuit Judges () and (Derek Sweeting QC)
75 Written evidence from the Crown Prosecution Service ()
76 Written evidence from the Council of Her Majesty’s Circuit Judges ()
78 The Civil Justice Council and the Legal Education Foundation, The impact of Covid-19 measures on the civil justice system: Report and recommendations (May 2020): [accessed 24 August 2020]
79 Written evidence from the Public Law Project (), the Association of Chief Trading Standards Officers and National Trading Standards () and Transport for London ()
80 (Cris McCurley)
81 Written evidence from the Council of Her Majesty’s Circuit Judges ()
82 (Dr Natalie Byrom)
83 Written evidence from the Council of Her Majesty’s Circuit Judges ()
84 (Dr Natalie Byrom)
85 Written evidence from Citizens Advice Stevenage ()
86 Written evidence from the Association of Chief Trading Standards Officers and National Trading Standards (), and the Public Law Project ()
87 Written evidence from the Public Law Project ()
88 Written evidence from the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives ()
89 HMCTS, ‘Using remote hearings to maintain justice during the coronavirus pandemic’, (30 April 2020): [accessed 4 March 2021]
90 HMCTS, Video Remand Hearings (31 October 2019): [accessed 16 February 2021]
91 ‘HMCTS research highlights challenges of virtual justice’, Law Society Gazette (11 September 2018): [accessed 4 March 2021]
92 Oral evidence taken before the Justice Committee on 1 December 2020 (Session 2019-21) (Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP)
93 ‘Police forces pull support for virtual remand hearings’, Law Society Gazette (19 October 2020): [accessed 1 February 2021]
94 Oral evidence taken before the Justice Committee on 1 December 2020 (Session 2019-21) (Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP)
95 Oral evidence taken before the Justice Committee on 12 January 2021 (Session 2019-21) (Richard Miller)
96 Criminal Justice Chief Inspectors, Impact of the pandemic on the Criminal Justice System (13 January 2021): [accessed 1 February 2021]
97 See, for example, (Professor Richard Susskind OBE).
98 (Derek Sweeting QC) and written evidence from Transform Justice () and the Crown Prosecution Service ()
99 Written evidence from the Association of Chief Trading Standards Officers and National Trading Standards (), and Professor Gráinne McKeever ()
100 (Caroline Goodwin QC), (Derek Sweeting QC), (Simon Davis) and written evidence from the Crown Prosecution Service (), Transform Justice (), the Association of Chief Trading Standards Officers and National Trading Standards () and the Council of Her Majesty’s Circuit Judges ()
101 Written evidence from the Crown Prosecution Service ()
102 Written evidence from Transform Justice ()
103 Written evidence from the Sheffield ME and Fibromyalgia Group ()
104 (Susan Acland-Hood)
105 Written evidence from the Association of Chief Trading Standards Officers and National Trading Standards () and (Simon Davis)
106 Written evidence from the Public Law Project ()
107 Nuffield Family Justice Observatory, Remote hearings in the family justice system: a rapid consultation (May 2020): [accessed 1 February 2021]
108 Written evidence from Dr Kate Leader ()
109 (Dr Natalie Byrom)
110 (Derek Sweeting QC)
111 (Rt Hon Lord Burnett of Maldon), (Derek Sweeting QC), (Professor Dame Hazel Genn), (Carol Storer OBE), (Cris McCurley) and written evidence from Professor Gráinne McKeever () and the Association of Chief Trading Standards Officers and National Trading Standards (), (Professor Dame Hazel Genn)
112 Written evidence from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (). See, also, (Caroline Goodwin QC) and written evidence from the Association of Chief Trading Standards Officers and National Trading Standards ().
113 Written evidence from the Council of Her Majesty’s Circuit Judges ()
114 (Dr Natalie Byrom), (Carol Storer OBE) and (Derek Sweeting QC)
115 (Cris McCurley)
116 Written evidence from Council of Her Majesty’s Circuit Judges ()
117 Written evidence from Transform Justice ()
118 Written evidence from Professor Gráinne McKeever (), a Benefits Advisor () and Citizens Advice Stevenage ()
119 (Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP)
120 Ministry of Justice, More support for those representing themselves in court (19 August 2020): [accessed 1 February 2021]
121 Written evidence from Sheffield ME and Fibromyalgia Group () and the Crown Prosecution Service ()
122 Written evidence from Mischon de Reya LLP ()
123 Written evidence from Transform Justice (), Sheffield ME and Fibromyalgia Group () and the Public Law Project ()
124 (Professor Richard Susskind OBE), written evidence from the Public Law Project (), Dr Kate Leader () and Transform Justice ()
125 and (Professor Dame Hazel Genn)
126 Written evidence from a Benefits Advisor ()
127 (Dr Natalie Byrom)
128 Nuffield Family Justice Observatory, Remote hearings in the family justice system: a rapid consultation (May 2020): [accessed 1 February 2021]
129 (James Sandbach)
130 (Professor Dame Hazel Genn)
131 (Professor Dame Hazel Genn), and (Carol Storer, Cris McCurley), (James Sandbach)
132 (Carol Storer OBE)
133 (James Sandbach)
134 Written evidence from the Law Society of England and Wales ()
135 (Simon Davis)
136 (Caroline Goodwin QC)
137 The Bar Council, Whole Bar Survey July 2020: Summary of findings (27 July 2020): [accessed 1 February 2021]
138 (Derek Sweeting QC)
139 (Rt Hon Lord Burnett of Maldon)
140 (Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP)
141 Ministry of Justice, More support for those representing themselves in court (19 August 2020): [accessed 1 February 2021]
142 Ministry of Justice, £50 million for legal aid sector (21 August 2020): [accessed 1 February 2021]
143 Written evidence from Tristan Kirk ()
144 Written evidence from the Public Law Project () and Transform Justice (), and (Dr Natalie Byrom)
145 Written evidence from Tristan Kirk ()
146 Written evidence from Transform Justice ()
147 The Civil Justice Council and the Legal Education Foundation, The impact of Covid-19 measures on the civil justice system: Report and recommendations (May 2020): [accessed 1 February 2021]
148 and (Dr Natalie Byrom)
149 Written evidence from the Transparency Project ()
150 Written evidence from the Public Law Project ()
151 Written evidence from Tristan Kirk ()