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An overhaul of the courts in England and Wales is beset by problems, say MPs -Dlight News

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Problems with a £1.3bn government program to modernize courts in England and Wales have placed an “unacceptable” burden on the justice system, MPs have warned, as figures show a record number of serious criminal cases are taking more than two years to complete. .

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee said in a report published on Friday that it was “gravely concerned” about long-delayed reforms of the courts aimed at making the justice system more accessible and efficient.

Extensive changesSome of which have been implemented, including virtual court hearings, online portals for divorce and probate applications, and digital case records.

HM Courts and Tribunals Service, the government agency responsible for enforcement, initially planned to complete them in four years but now in seven, according to the report.

Officials extended the timetable for a third time in March and now propose to deliver most of the changes by next March, though they don’t expect to fully roll out the digital “case management” platform until 2025, the committee said.

The report found that the platform was beset by “technical and functionality issues” that “placed an unacceptable additional burden on the courts”.

“We are seriously concerned that, despite a long history of resetting the programme, HMCTS has had to revise and delay its plans again,” the MPs said.

Meanwhile, lawyers have warned that the backlog of cases is leaving victims and defendants waiting longer for trials to be completed.

Officer data Figures released on Thursday showed that, in the first quarter of this year, around 17,300 pending cases in the Crown Court – which deal with serious criminal offenses including murder, rape and robbery – had been open for a year or more, equivalent to 29 per cent. is Total.

More than 6,000 of them – or 10 percent – were still outstanding after two years. This compares to just 500 or 1 percent in the same period in 2014.

“The backlog now faced is a real threat to timely access to justice,” said Meg Hillier, Labor chair of the Public Accounts Committee.

While the courts were “crying out” for reform, the committee’s report found that HMCTS was “now rushing to introduce it. [reform] plans following multiple delays”, she added.

Shuja of Lub
Lubna Shuja: ‘Reform is long overdue but should not be done in a way that increases the burden on judges, court staff, solicitors and barristers’ © Darren Filkins/Law Society

Advocates said they shared the concerns. Lubna Shuja, president of the Law Society, which represents lawyers, said: “Reforms are long overdue but should not be done in a way that increases the already overburdened burden on judges, court staff, solicitors and barristers.”

Of its £1.3bn reform budget, HMCTS has just £120mn left to deliver the rest of the changes, MPs said.

They expressed concern that the agency had “shifted some projects out [reform] program in its business-as-usual activities.

HMCTS was “almost halfway through its budget for the reform programme”, Hillier said.

The MPs’ findings follow the same reform report National Audit OfficeParliamentary Expenditure Monitor, in February.

The NAO found that the biggest problems were with the case management system for the criminal courts, with its design “beset with problems” and implementation having a “harmful effect”. However, he says the system has “undoubtedly improved since its initial rollout”.

The Ministry of Justice said: “We are modernizing our courts so that they are fit for the 21st century and the digital services we have introduced have been used successfully over two million times.”

A spokesman said: “When the barristers’ strike ended last year, the backlog of cases in the Crown Court is low and the system is operating at full capacity, with more judges being recruited to restore unlimited sitting days and speedy access to justice. Victims deserve it.

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