The Justice Select Committee has published its report on the court and tribunal reform programme.

PLP Director Jo Hickman said: “The Justice Committee report rightly asserts that access to justice must be the primary focus for the court reform programme and that cost savings and efficiencies should come second.

“The recommendations reflect many of the concerns PLP raised in written and oral evidence to the Committee.

“This was a thorough inquiry and its report warrants serious consideration. We hope that the Ministry of Justice and HMCTS acknowledge and act on the recommendations the Justice Committee has made.”

Among the recommendations in the report that PLP supports are:

  • A stop on further court closures until ‘robust independent analysis’ has been done on the effect of closures already implemented, with a ‘particular focus on access to justice’ (para 108)
  • A revised benchmark of 1.5 hours travel time to court with an expectation that no user should need to leave their home earlier than 08.00 or return later than 18.00 (para 125)
  • A halt to staffing cuts unless HMCTS is confident of being able to provide an acceptable level of service to court users (para 150)
  • For sufficient staff to be based in court buildings to provide reassurance and expert, face-to-face guidance for court users (para 151), and
  • An improvement in stakeholder engagement by the Ministry of Justice and HMCTS and greater rigour in analysing and reacting to feedback (para 198)

PLP also supports the Committee’s recommendation that reforms should be monitored and evaluated against:

  • The impact on vulnerable and excluded groups
  • Access to justice standards of (a) access to the formal legal system (b) access to a fair and effective hearing (c) access to a decision and (d) access to an outcome, and
  • The impact on access to justice for digitally excluded and vulnerable people, with a particular focus on justice outcomes rather than on processes alone (para 210)

The Committee also recommended that HMCTS prioritises the development of effective and accessible technical solutions that support open justice. This must be done to ensure that open justice keeps pace with the evolution of digital and video-enabled processes that take justice out of conventional courtrooms. (para 167)

Director of the Public Law Project Jo Hickman said: “We welcome the finding that open justice is a centrally important principle and one which maintains the rule of law. Justice must be seen to be done. At the moment it is not clear how digitised court proceedings would uphold this principle. We are glad that the committee has recognised this and we support the recommendation for the development of solutions that will support open justice.

“Justice reform should aim to increase the accountability of public decision-makers, enhance the quality of decision-making, and improve access to justice. The introduction of online procedures may meet these aims if implemented well but, crucially, the impact of any reforms need to be fully understood before changes are made.”


About the Public Law Project

  1. PLP was set up to ensure those marginalised through poverty, discrimination or disadvantage have access to public law remedies and can hold the state to account.
  2. Our vision is a world in which individual rights are respected and public bodies act fairly and lawfully. 
  3. Our mission is to improve public decision making and facilitate access to justice.
  4. Our priorities are to:
    • Promote and preserve the Rule of Law
    • Ensure fair systems
    • Improve access to justice

Contact information