Spending Review and Court Digitisation

November 25, 2015

The documents released by the Treasury include a series of measures that relate to the use of technology in the justice system. The most arresting claim in the Ministry of Justice press release is that there will be a ‘more than £700 million investment in the courts and tribunals system to create a swifter, more proportionate justice system, which will generate savings of approximately £200 million a year from 2019-20’.

The main Spending Review document states (at p 69) that the ‘government will also invest in new technology and prisoner education to support rehabilitation, and will fund new video conference centres in prisons to enable video links with courts. This will reduce transport costs by allowing up to 90,000 cases a year to be heard in prison instead of court.’ It goes on, under the ‘Courts’ heading (para 1.281 also at p 69), to give a little more detail on the broad statement in the press release:

The government has already taken steps to deliver a more efficient and effective courts and tribunals system for all users, including action to create a fully integrated criminal justice system, based around a common digital platform from police stations to court rooms. 1.282 In 2014-15 the government committed £380 million new investment over 5 years from 2015-16 to fundamentally transform the courts and tribunals system, ensuring it is fit for purpose and delivers swifter and more certain justice. In this Spending Review the government is increasing total investment to more than £700 million to modernise and fully digitise the courts, moving from a paper-based to an online system. This will eliminate the need for over half a million pre-trial hearings in the criminal courts, and will significantly reduce court hearing times and the time spent on basic administrative functions. The government will also deliver a more efficient configuration of the estate by selling some underused courts to release land for new homes, and refurbishing existing ones. Together these reforms are expected to deliver savings of approximately £200 million a year from 2019-20 onwards.