Access the report here
Social Market Foundation research warns that urgent technological reform and investment is needed to support civil and criminal justice institutions and protect the rule of law in England and Wales.
A report published today by the Social Market Foundation, "Future-proofing justice - Making the civil and criminal courts world-leading by 2030", identifies the importance of maintaining a public system for administering justice to uphold the rule of law and the risks of failing to do so.
Drawing on an expert round-table and polling of businesses and individuals, the research reveals failings in previous investment in and attempts to modernise the civil and criminal justice systems.
"Future-proofing justice" notes that in recent decades, despite their centrality to society, the civil and criminal justice systems of England and Wales have demonstrated significant failings. The report identifies the deterrent effect that an inefficient and ineffective civil justice system has on corporate and individual users and the broader societal impact of persistent inefficiencies in the criminal justice system.
The current court modernisation programme, which is due to be completed by the end of 2023, looks set to be disappointing; initial hopes that it would prove to be a transformational programme significantly increasing the efficacy and efficiency of both the civil and criminal courts are likely to be dashed.
Indeed, according to the report, the impact of failings in the civil and criminal justice systems have seen the rule of law begin to erode and its many benefits diminish:
- Smaller businesses are suffering detriment of more than £40bn annually due to “civil legal problems”, which many businesses cannot get resolved satisfactorily because of the barriers to accessing justice.
- The World Bank places the English and Welsh civil justice system 34th in its global table for efficacy and efficiency in contract enforcement, despite the long-standing reputation of England and Wales for being a commerce friendly jurisdiction.
- In 2019 more than half of all trials listed in the Magistrates and Crown Courts were classed as “cracked” or “ineffective”. The backlog of cases in the Crown Courts is now approaching 60,000. With the Criminal Bar Association balloting its members on whether to stage a walk out escalating its dispute with the Ministry of Justice about legal aid rates, the backlog and the number of ineffective trials will likely increase.
The report recommends the development of a new, long-term, strategic approach by Government and policymakers in collaboration with other key stakeholders to build world-leading civil and criminal justice systems in England and Wales by 2030 through a reform programme that needs to:
- Be future-facing.
- Based upon a robust body of data driven evidence. Including in measuring return on investment.
- Built upon proven approaches, through the application of key lessons learnt from successful examples of overseas court system transformations and dispute resolution models that have demonstrated themselves to be effective.
- Have a central role for the right technologies, which can help deliver the required transformations in the structures, management and processes of the two court systems.
As sponsors of the report, we are now convening a working group led by Nick West, Partner and Chief Strategy Officer at Mishcon de Reya, to identify further reform and investment opportunities based on the report and its insights.
Access the report here