Update: The final report is due to be published in the week ending 5 June. Please see below for more information.
The measures put in place to tackle the spread of COVID-19 have resulted in significant changes in the operation of the civil justice system, particularly the swift expansion of the use of remote hearings. It is unknown how long these measures will continue for. The Civil Justice Council (CJC) therefore considers it important and timely to seek feedback on the impact of these changes. This feedback will be used to inform any further guidance that is issued and identify areas where additional work may be needed.
About the consultation
The CJC has commissioned an independent review led by Dr Natalie Byrom, Director of Research at The Legal Education Foundation with the support of a wider virtual working group to gather feedback on the impact of COVID measures on the civil justice system.
This review will run for two weeks from Friday 1 May to Friday 15 May in order to report by 5 June 2020. NB: Please note that the reporting date was originally 22 May, but in order to be able to properly consider and include the vast number of responses received, the date has been amended.
The aim of the review is to provide an overview of the operation of current measures and offer practical recommendations to inform the ongoing response to COVID. It will concentrate on the experience and reaction of court users. It will also provide useful ground work for any future wider review of the use of remote hearings, identifying areas where further evidence may be needed.
Sir Terence Etherton, The Master of the Rolls, Head of Civil Justice and Chairman of the Civil Justice Council said: “It is essential that we understand quickly how court users are being affected by the widespread changes adopted by the civil justice system in response to COVID-19. This review is a chance for users to give feedback on how the changes are impacting them and to suggest areas of improvement. The evidence collected by this review will be invaluable in shaping the way forward for the civil justice system, both immediately and in the longer term.”
The review is particularly interested in gathering feedback from court users in response to the following questions:
- What is working well about the current arrangements?
- What is not working well about current arrangements?
- Which types of cases are most suited to which type of hearings and why?
- How does the experience of remote hearings vary depending on the platform that is used?
- What technology is needed to make remote hearings successful?
- What difference does party location make to the experience of the hearing?
- How do remote hearings impact on the ability of representatives to communicate with their clients?
- How do professional court users and litigants feel about remote hearings?
- How do litigants in person experience hearings that are conducted remotely?
- How do remote hearings impact on perceptions of the justice system by those who are users of it?
- How is practice varying across different geographical regions?
- What has been the impact of current arrangements on open justice?
- What other observations would you make about the impact of COVID-19 on the operation of the civil justice system?
How to get involved
There are three ways to participate in the review:
- Submit material to the literature review: The consultation will review existing published accounts of the experience of civil court users during this time. If you or your organisation have published any relevant material (guidance, blog posts, opinion pieces), or if you have findings from a survey you would be happy to share, please email: consultation@theLEF.org
- Complete the survey on the experience of remote hearings: The Civil Justice Council has a particular interest in understanding the experience of court users who have participated in a remote hearing since 19 March 2020. If you have participated in, or observed, a remote hearing since 19 March, please go online to complete this survey. Due to the considerable pressures on judicial and court staff time, at the request of the Master of the Rolls, this survey is focussed on users; the equally important views of judiciary and court staff will be gathered by other means.
- Join the remote consultation meeting: A virtual consultation meeting will be held on 11 May at 5pm – reserve your place on the EventBrite website.
If you have any other feedback you would like to raise, or would prefer to contribute by email, or telephone please email: consultation@theLEF.org
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