23 October 2020
The Justice Committee is currently conducting an inquiry into whether the number of sitting days available will be sufficient to clear the backlog of cases in the courts and what long-term solutions, including digital hearings, may be possible. We submitted a response, highlighting our work on the virtual jury trial as a possible solution. We also drew attention to our 2016 working party report What is a Court? which recommended reconfiguration of the physical court estate into justice spaces, that are flexible to the needs of the hearing and users. We recommended further attention be paid to ad hoc arrangements that will make use of community spaces to administer justice, alongside use of video hearings where appropriate to the case and parties. This reflects that court closures have made local justice far more difficult to access.
We further highlighted that JUSTICE has increasingly been looking at the value of alternative dispute resolution across our work streams in recent years. For example, diversion programmes that are tailored to strengthening positive life styles and meaningful support for people engaging in risky behaviour have the potential to rehabilitate or avoid criminal pathways, which traditional court and prison routes are failing to achieve. Likewise, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in civil proceedings that seeks to address the underlying reasons a person is at risk of losing their home rather than simply ordering repossession for non-payment or other grounds, is a more effective solution to avoid homelessness and keep properties inhabited and income generating, so long as it is accompanied by accessible advice provision. These kinds of measures have the potential to significantly ease the burden on the court estate to hear more swiftly complex matters that require a judicial resolution. You can read our response here.