JUSTICE Working Party on ‘What is a Court’ – call for engagement

In October 2015, JUSTICE launched a Working Party of its membership looking at the configuration of the court and tribunal estate in England and Wales, chaired by Alexandra Marks, who is joined by Sir Louis Blom-Cooper QC, HHJ Nicholas Coleman, Amanda Finlay CBE, Andrew Lockley, George Lubega, Professor Linda Mulcahy, Professor Martin Partington CBE QC, HHJ Isobel Plumstead, HHJ Daniel Pierce-Higgins, Pat Thomas, Karamjit Singh CBE and Caroline Sheppard.

JUSTICE is a UK-based all-party human rights and law reform organisation. Its mission is to advance access to justice, human rights and the rule of law. JUSTICE has worked for many years to promote a legal system which embraces effective access to justice as its most basic element.

The terms of reference of the Working Party’s inquiry are as follows:

  • To examine options for the reconfiguration of the courts and tribunals estate in England and Wales
  • To consider the guiding principles that should inform the use and reconfiguration of the court estate
  • To analyse the development and implementation of alternatives to existing courts, and the extent to which these ought to be improved upon
  • To explore whether there are more realistic and desirable alternatives to existing courts
  • To make recommendations for improvements in the provision of existing courts.

The Working Party seeks to take advantage of the timeliness of its work, set in the context of Lord Justice Briggs’ Civil Courts Structure Review and most pertinently, the HMCTS Reform Programme. We have taken it upon ourselves to adopt a ‘back-to-basics’ approach in which we ask fundamental questions about the configuration of the courts and tribunals in England and Wales, considering how it can best facilitate the proper exercise of justice both today and well into the future.

Our aim is to radically reimagine the court and tribunal estate in a manner that puts the court user at the centre of the process. In order to achieve this we need to hear about the needs and experiences of people going through the estate, both as litigants but also as witnesses, victims, jurors and others. Our Working Party asks for your contributions on the experience of your stakeholders. We would value responses to the following questions:

1. Please provide brief information about the organisation you work with and the reasons why people seek out your services.

2. Is the location of court and tribunal buildings a challenge for the people you deal with?

3. Do people feel comfortable (physically and emotionally) during their time inside court and tribunal buildings, from your experience?

4. What services are currently found in the court and tribunal estate that people value?

5. What services are currently lacking from the court and tribunal estate but which people would value?

6. Do you have any ideas about how court and tribunal buildings could be designed or organised in order to improve accessibility, both physically and metaphorically? We are open to radical ideas.

The timeline which we are currently working to will have us launch our report at the end of May 2016.

While we hope that the launch of our report will be the beginning of the conversation rather than the end, any contributions which we can use to enrich and strengthen our report would be appreciated. Ideally, please send through your response by no later than 1st April 2016.

Please get in contact with Nadia O’Mara at JUSTICE with your responses by email at: nomara@justice.org.uk