‘What is a Court?’

In 2015, JUSTICE launched a Working Party of our membership looking at What is a Court?, challenging long-held notions of what is required of a court or tribunal, and intended to inform the HMCTS Reform Programme as it is designed and implemented. The Working Party was chaired by Alexandra Marks.

The report of the Working Party was launched in May 2016. It recommends:

  • The reconception of court and tribunal rooms as ‘justice spaces’. This new model is defined by its inherent flexibility and rejection of the over-standardisation prevalent in existing courts and tribunals. Justice spaces are designed to adapt to the particular dispute resolution process taking place within them, and the needs of users, rather than the other way around.
  • A flexible and responsive court and tribunal estate, made up of a number of dynamic parts. The Working Party suggests a portfolio of Flagship Justice Centres; Local Justice Centres; ‘Pop-up courts’; remote access justice facilities; and digital justice spaces.

The Working Party emphasises the importance of technology, and its potential to meet user needs and maximise access to justice. All of the Working Party’s proposals are anchored in a commitment to a core set of principled considerations. Finally, the report makes practical recommendations aimed at ensuring the effective implementation of the HMCTS Reform Programme.

Alexandra Marks was joined on the Working Party by Sir Louis Blom-Cooper QC, His Honour Nicholas Coleman, Andrea Coomber, Amanda Finlay CBE, Andrew Lockley, George Lubega, Professor Linda Mulcahy, Nadia O’Mara (Rapporteur), Professor Martin Partington CBE QC, Her Honour Isobel Plumstead, HHJ Daniel Pierce-Higgins, Pat Thomas OBE, Karamjit Singh CBE and Caroline Sheppard. Their work was kindly supported by Nabarro.

JUSTICE views this report as the beginning of a conversation on our courts and tribunals. We look forward to more work on this subject in the future and welcome contributions to this end.

Read the full report. 

Read a summary and highlights from the report in our press release.