HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has published an overview of its civil and Family Courts and tribunals recovery plan amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In order to maintain the access to the justice system, HMCTS has undertaken various actions at the beginning of the pandemic by notably supporting judicial priorities to ensure the protection of the most vulnerable, making courtrooms available by adopting guidance on social distancing and maximising the use of video and telephone hearings, and enabling HMCTS staff by providing equipment and adapting the work schedule. HMCTS expects to see an increase of demand in civil courts in the following months and to see a 'return to at least pre-COVID levels by the spring'. Following some analysis, an increase of demand 'temporarily above pre-COVID norms' could also be observed in 'both public and private family law'. HMCTS also aims to increase face-to-face hearings and to sustain 'performance in the First-tier and Upper Tribunals'.
HMCTS has highlighted that for the near future, it plans to ‘gather data and other evidence to support continuous improvement’, while considering feedbacks from judges, magistrates, non-legal members and staff. It also plans to review which measures should be adopted in the longer term to ensure ‘future resilience and to deliver access to justice in the public interest’.
The five pillars which have guided HMCTS its approach to recovery are:
• to maximise the judiciary capacity
• to re-open courtroom within a safe capacity
• to ensure the continuous support for remote hearings
• to increase staff capacity
• to continue to reduce the time taken to process cases
For further information notably on the challenges faced by civil courts, Family Courts, and tribunals, you can read the overview.