There has been a considerable increase in litigants in person for whom the current court system in England and Wales is not really designed, the Lord Chief Justice has warned.
In his annual report for 2015 Lord Thomas said this was a consequence of the system of justice becoming “unaffordable to most”.
The LCJ also suggested that:
- There was a need to explain publicly the importance of the judicial system in “maintaining a just and fair society, accountable and democratic government and a strong economy”. The celebrations of the anniversary of Magna Carta had provided opportunities to emphasise these matters.
- Although in common with many other European states the number of court buildings had been reduced through closure, the failure to invest had meant that many of the courtrooms had not been modernised and lacked modern means of communication to provide for better access to justice.
- Outdated IT systems severely impeded the delivery of justice.
- No satisfactory means of funding the provision of the system of justice in England and Wales had yet been achieved.
- The structure of the courts and tribunals had not permitted sufficient flexibility for the efficient deployment of the judiciary; this had been exacerbated by the decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union in O’Brien v Ministry of Justice.
In his introduction Lord Thomas says:
“The key issue in 2015, the 800th anniversary year of Magna Carta, was whether investment would be obtained to modernise the courts and tribunals and to secure their position as leaders in the world. The judiciary was both delighted and extremely grateful that in the 2015 Autumn statement the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the provision of £738m for this purpose.”
The LCJ added that the delivery of the reform programme would require and enable the judiciary to tackle the issues he had highlighted as well as others.
“Although the judiciary does not underestimate the substantial and difficult task ahead, we are encouraged by the successful piloting both of the digital case system in criminal cases in the Crown Court and of the e-judiciary programme for judges,” Lord Thomas said.
For those interested the full report can be found here: