Access to Justice- English style

The Courts and Tribunals Judiciary Service in England and Wales have just published the 4th Edition of The Remote Access Family Court, by Mr Justice MacDonald.

Now up to 55 pages, it is a remarkable piece of work- covering practical issues like the various platforms that are available as well as the more difficult challenges around access to justice, and the effective participation of litigants in family cases. 

The response of the English judiciary (and others involved in the Family Justice system in England and Wales) has been incredible- they have moved quickly, and been creative and brave as they have found ways to try and ensure that the Courts have remained open to deal with cases. They have also now instituted a two-week rapid consultation on the use of remote hearings in  the Family Justice System

This research project will be undertaken by the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory, an independent organisation which is committed to improving life for children and families by putting data and evidence at the heart of family justice system. The plan is to seek to gather evidence from families with children and all professionals working in the family justice system, including judges, barristers, solicitors, Cafcass workers, court staff and social workers with a view to issuing Guidance in early May. 

None of us know how long we are going to be in lockdown, but it seems unavoidable to conclude that the 'new normal' that will come after COVID-19 will involve significantly greater use being made of remote hearings in future, and we in Scotland would be wise to watch, and learn from, the experience of our colleagues south of the border- not least because (in the Court of Session at least) we will be moving to some (very small) measure of remote hearings from the 21st of April 2020. Watch this space, as they say...