UK government defers call on court modernisation funding to 2021

The modernisation programme was launched back in 2016, but is still unfinished

UK government defers call on court modernisation funding to 2021

The UK government has deferred to 2021 its final decision regarding the provision of funds to complete the courts modernisation programme, the Law Society Gazette reported.

Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett said that a business case to secure the funding had been presented to the Treasury in October. However, he announced at a press conference last week that the consideration of the case had been pushed back to February out of a choice to prioritise the courts recovery plan following the COVID-19 lockdown.

The courts modernisation programme was first launched in 2016. It includes initiatives such as shifting to a paperless system in county court, which handles the vast majority of civil cases in the UK.

Although four years have passed since the programme’s establishment, it is still unfinished in parts. The Gazette said that IT upgrades were not acknowledged in the chancellor’s November spending review, calling into question the Treasury’s desire to commit financially to the programme.

Moreover, the target completion date of 2023 represented a year’s delay based on initial plans.

Nonetheless, Burnett said that it would be an “act of self-harm” to not see the programme through to completion. He lambasted the county court’s current paper-based system, which has created a need to fill out long forms, a need to transport documents from court to court and resulted in massive files for judges to go through.

“All of that is grotesquely inefficient and the digitisation of the county court, which has yet to commence, is again an absolutely vital step to ensuring both efficiency but also recovery,” he said.

Burnett stressed that he found the modernisation programme to be an important initiative, pointing to how digitisation had boosted efficiency in the family court.

“I should make absolutely clear my view that the continued funding of the reform and modernisation programme is absolutely vital to the efficient functioning of the courts, and it is also my view that modernisation and recovery are not separate matters; they are two sides of the same coin,” he said.

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