On 9 October plans were announced regarding the proposed development of a new, state-of-the-art court centre that will specialise in cybercrime and fraud cases and be based in the heart of the City of London.
Housing 18 court rooms and sporting the latest technology, the new court will also take on criminal and civil cases currently being dealt with by the City's Magistrates' Court and County Court.
Heralded as part of the Government's drive to emphasise the role of the UK's legal and financial services industries post-Brexit, justice minister Dominic Raab said: “This new flagship court will build on UK legal services’ unique comparative advantage by leading the drive to tackle fraud and crack down on cybercrime. By reinforcing the City’s world-leading reputation as the number one place to do business and resolve disputes, it’s a terrific advert for post-Brexit Britain.”
We have previously written about some of the substantive criminal justice challenges confronting the U.K. as part of its overall Brexit strategy. So whilst an improvement to the court estate is always welcome, it will be obvious to most observers that this is perhaps the least of the government's concerns at this time. And by opening this debate, it will inevitably invite scrutiny as to whether other court centres around the country are going to be seeing similar upgrades and whether there is going to be an equal opportunity for everyone to achieve the same level of access to justice.
Importantly, what this announcement conspicuously fails to address is the question of whether we will see a corresponding investment in public services, most notably for those charged with investigating serious fraud and cybercrime and for the authorities whose responsibility it is to prosecute such matters. A shiny new court on Fleet Street will amount to nothing more than an expensive white elephant if there aren't the cases to fill it.
We have previously commented on at least one way in which the fraud landscape could radically be changed in order to bring about real reform in the way in which citizens are able to access justice. Although the full details of this new court remain to be announced, hopes for a revolution (at least for the court system) should, for now at least, be tempered.