TLEF, together with UCL and the University of Oxford, brought together experts to draft recommendations for measuring the impact of online courts on access to justice

The court system in England and Wales is undergoing a period of rapid and unprecedented change. In 2016, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service (“HMCTS”) established a programme of reform that intends to introduce new technology, modernise the justice system and reduce costs. Cost reductions are expected to be realised through a combination of reducing staff, reducing the number of cases held in physical court rooms and reducing the court estate, as well as generating efficiency savings through reforming administrative processes. The HMCTS Reform Programme aims to reduce demand on courts by moving activity out of court rooms, expanding the use of video technology, introducing online end-to-end processes, promoting the use of online negotiation, mediation and settlement and developing new asynchronous processes (such as Continuous Online Resolution) for use in areas of administrative justice.

In delivering these changes, HMCTS have publicly committed both to monitoring and evaluating the impact of the reform programme on: “people’s access to, and the fairness of, the justice system, particularly in relation to those who are vulnerable” and to: “use insights from external research and academia to validate and challenge their approach”. To assist in this task, The Legal Education Foundation, together with Professor Dame Hazel Genn (UCL Laws) and Professor Abigail Adams and Professor Jeremias Prassl (University of Oxford) brought together experts from around the world to recommend a framework for designing an evaluation that would be recognised as robust.

The workshops, which were held in October and November 2018, brought together thirty-eight experts in online dispute resolution, public law, civil procedure, access to justice research, court administration and evaluation. Attendees included:

  • Prof. Abigail Adams, New College, University of Oxford
  • Ms. Julie Bishop , Law Centres Network
  • Lord Justice Peter Coulson, Deputy Head of Civil Justice, England and Wales
  • Dr. Naomi Creutzfeld, University of Westminster
  • Ms. Renee Danser, Access to Justice Lab, Harvard Law School
  • Prof. Noam Ebner, Creighton University Graduate School
  • Prof. Cristie Ford, University of British Columbia
  • Prof. Dame Hazel Genn, UCL Centre for Access to Justice, UCL Faculty of Laws
  • Mr. Richard Goodman, HMCTS
  • Prof. Andrew Higgins, Mansfield College, University of Oxford
  • Ms. Rhiannon Hollis, Justice Select Committee
  • Mr. Murray Hunt, Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law
  • Prof. Peter John, Kings College London
  • Ms. Charlotte Kilroy, Doughty Street Chambers
  • Ms. Sara Lomri, Public Law Project
  • Prof. Helen Margetts, The Alan Turing Institute and The Oxford Internet Institute
  • Mr. Richard Miller, The Law Society
  • Prof. Helen Mountfield, Matrix Chambers and Mansfield College Oxford
  • Prof. Kate O’Regan, The Bonavero Insitute of Human Rights, University of Oxford
  • Ms. Alison Pickup, Public Law Project
  • Mr. Timothy Pitt-Payne QC, 11 Kings Bench Walk
  • Prof. Jeremias Prassl, Magdalene College, Oxford
  • Mr. Michael Reed, Free Representation Unit
  • Prof. Judith Resnik, Arthur Liman Professor of Law, Yale Law School
  • Ms Erika Rickard, The Pew Charitable Trusts
  • Ms. Rachel Robinson, Equality and Human Rights Commission
  • Mr. Richard Rogers, The Civil Resolution Tribunal, British Columbia
  • Dr. Meredith Rossner, The London School of Economics
  • Sir Ernest Ryder, Senior President of Tribunals
  • Professor Amy Schmitz, School of Law, University of Missouri
  • Dr. Ayelet Sela, Bar-Illan University, Israel
  • Mr. David Slayton, Joint Technology Committee, National Centre for State Courts
  • Dr Joe Tomlinson, Kings College London and The Public Law Project
  • Prof. Patricia White, University of Miami School of Law
  • Prof. John Zeleznikow, Victoria University Business School

The draft recommendations are available here. The recommendations propose:

  • A revised approach to engaging with stakeholders and harnessing external expertise.
  • A definition of “vulnerability” and “fairness” that is capable of being operationalised empirically
  • An irreducible minimum standard of “access to justice”, derived from case law, and suggestions for how this standard should be measured.
  • The implications of adopting these definitions for the design of the data architecture underpinning the reform programme

The formal evaluation of the reform programme will be led by the Ministry of Justice, who have committed to finalising their approach by Spring 2019. In order to assist the Ministry of Justice in scoping their evaluation approach, TLEF would welcome comments and feedback on these draft recommendations by 22nd March 2019. Please email any comments or suggestions to Natalie.Byrom@theLEF.org by this date.

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