The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord Burnett of Maldon, has laid his annual report before Parliament and published it today (Monday 31 October 2022).
The continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on courts and tribunals is reflected in the report, which covers July 2021 to September 2022 (future reports will coincide with the legal year).
In his foreword, Lord Burnett explains how physical restrictions and precautions surrounding COVID-19 were loosened in spring 2022 and later removed. Outstanding caseloads and backlogs in the courts have stopped rising and, for the most part, have started to see a slow but steady decline.
In the report, Lord Burnett also covered a number of other topics, from the work to improve crown court hearings; recruitment; diversity and inclusion in the judiciary; enhancing welfare support for judges; the court estate; reform; pay and pensions updates; and building on ‘One Judiciary’ to draw the courts and tribunals closer together.
He said: “My aim, shared by the judiciary at all levels, is to focus in detail on practice and procedure in all jurisdictions, involving key players in discussion, with a view to increasing the throughput of cases thereby reducing backlogs and improving timeliness. The Senior President of Tribunals is doing parallel work in the tribunals.”
Lord Burnett added: “The judiciary continues to work hard to encourage suitably qualified candidates to apply for judicial office and has been at the forefront of the collective efforts, involving also the legal profession and the Judicial Appointments Commission, to increase the diversity of the judiciary. Steady but slow progress continues to be made.”
Lord Burnett continued in his introduction: “This year has seen a joint public commitment to the ‘One Judiciary’ by me, the Lord Chancellor and the Senior President of Tribunals.
“Its aim is to draw the judiciary of the courts and tribunals closer together and in time secure a synthesis. Work is well underway to create a more modern workforce with consistent working practices across its many and varied areas. One Judiciary will create a single judicial family to which all judicial office holders belong.”
He concluded: “The period which is covered in this report has seen all jurisdictions under pressure but the dedication of our staff, judges and magistrates has continued to ensure that the public has been well-served. I express my profound thanks to all for what they do.”
The Lord Chief Justice’s Annual Report 2022 can be read in full below.