Lord Chief Justice discusses court system transformation amid coronavirus (COVID-19)

Lord Chief Justice discusses court system transformation amid coronavirus (COVID-19)

Speaking to the House of Lords Constitution Committee, Lord Chief Justice (LCJ), Lord Burnett of Maldon, has declared that the court system in England and Wales is unlikely to operate as it did before the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak due to the technological transformation that the system has undergone during the pandemic. The LCJ mentioned that despite some technological shortcomings and problems, 80% of civil and family hearings have been able to go ahead in some form or other since the start of the lockdown. He also said that a reduction in jurors from 12 to seven would be an option ‘well worth thinking about’.

The LCJ noted that ‘overall, the response of the judiciary, of the professions, of the courts service…has been quite remarkable, and in marked contrast…to what has been going on in many parts of the world’. However, he also said that if the pandemic continued beyond a few months, then support and ‘imaginative thinking’ would be required from the government to ensure that jury trials are conducted.

On the subject of the court system’s modernisation, the LCJ stated that ‘over many years, indeed decades, resources were not made available to keep the administration of justice up to date’. He notes, however, that recently ‘that has changed, in that the government has been supportive of the modernisation programme’. In relation to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the LCJ emphasised that ‘what has happened in the last couple of months demonstrates how vital it is that the investment [in the modernisation programme] continues’.

Finally, the LCJ revealed that the Cloud Video Platform, which has been piloted in some criminal cases, is to be rolled out to all civil and family courts in the coming weeks.

Source: Constitution Committee—Wednesday 13 May 2020

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