Hugely ambitious and sweeping reforms to modernise UK courts are being rushed through in a way which could undermine justice and heap pressure on other services, MPs have warned.
The Public Accounts Committee’s report into the HM Courts & Tribunals Service’s (HMCTS) £1.2bn programme, released on 20 July, claims the government has ‘cut corners’ and its plans could have ’unforeseen consequences for taxpayers, service users and justice more widely’.
Committee members warn that the reforms – which include digitising paper-based services, moving some types of cases online, introducing virtual hearings, closing courts and centralising customer services – are unprecedented anywhere in the world.
Committee chair Meg Hillier MP said: ‘Government has cut corners in its rush to push through these reforms. The timetable was unrealistic, consultation has been inadequate and, even now, HMCTS has not clearly explained what the changes will mean in practice.’
Law Society president Christina Blacklaws said: ‘The Government is spending a great deal of public money making the court estate fit for 21st-century justice, but the absence of a proper strategy is all too evident.’