JUSTICE recently responded to the ‘Transforming our justice system‘ consultation by the Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, which sought views on specific measures being implemented as part of MoJ’s changes to the justice system, namely ‘assisted digital’, online convictions and statutory fixed fines, and the panel composition in tribunals.
At this early stage in the development of ‘assisted digital’, JUSTICE’s response focusses on the principles and support features we consider are necessary to ensure that a digital court system provides sufficient support to enable all users to engage effectively with it.
We agree with the principle of a statutory fixed fine process, where appropriate, but are concerned that the model proposed must comply with the Article 6 ECHR right to a fair and public hearing. We urge HM Courts & Tribunals Service to be mindful of the fact that an online conviction system puts the defendant in an entirely novel position, away from informal sources of advice and responsible for navigating their own conviction, and to ensure that full information and tools for interpreting the process and the law are made available.
JUSTICE agrees with the principle that panel composition should reflect the needs of the users but urges the government to proceed with caution before assuming that a single panel member should be the default option for all tribunals. We agree that the Senior President of Tribunals needs to review the rules which regulate the composition of tribunal panels, to see if they remain fit for modern conditions, particularly in the light of wider changes to tribunals envisaged by the Consultation Document but, in our view, ultimately the decision to use a single panel member is best left to the judge hearing the case. We have particular concerns in areas such as Personal Independence Payments, Employment Support Allowance and Disability Living Allowance and in the Mental Health Tribunal.
JUSTICE’s response to the consultation can be found here.