JLD responds to HMCTS Flexible Operating Hours Pilots prospectus.

In October 2017 the Courts and Tribunal Services published further details of their plans for the flexible operating hours scheme regarding the criminal and civil courts. The aim is to provide a more efficient and effective justice system. As part of the programme of reform, the HMCTS is looking at options to use court rooms and hearing rooms at different times of day, outside the traditional hours of 10am - 4pm. As such, they developed a small number of pilots to test these options, known as flexible operating hours pilots. The prospectus, which invited comments to the proposals, confirms that the HMCTS is currently tendering for an independent organisation to evaluate the pilots which are due to go ahead in February 2018. 

At this stage, the proposals only affect the civil and criminal courts, with civil courts remaining open until 19:00, magistrates until 20:30, and crown courts until 18:00. There are also proposals for virtual hearings. 

The JLD is supportive of the HMCTS reforming the courts to ensure a more efficient and effective justice system. However, the JLD has concerns that the current proposals will result in increased workloads and longer working hours for junior lawyers. The JLD is also concerned that the proposals will adversely affect equality and diversity, particularly impacting those with childcare responsibilities and disabilities.