In recent decades the civil and criminal courts of England and Wales have demonstrated significant failings. These are causing considerable individual, societal and financial detriment and undermining the rule of law. This report surveys the current state of the courts and the likely impact of the current modernisation programme and outlines an agenda for reform that goes beyond the existing plans – in order to ensure that the UK’s courts are world-leading by 2030.
- There is a civil and criminal justice problem in England and Wales: Many people, especially those with relatively low value “civil legal problems” are unable to access justice.
- Also, the criminal courts have been failing to deliver justice effectively for many years, contributing to higher crime and undermining the rule of law.
- The state of affairs is reflected in international rankings, as England and Wales are below a number of other common law countries.
- The civil and criminal courts need a more ambitious transformation in their organisation and functioning than the current modernisation programme is delivering – which is likely to fall short of its original aims and leave the civil and criminal courts lagging behind other countries.
- The goal should be to build world-leading civil and criminal court systems in England and Wales by 2030. The reforms need to:
- Be future-facing and based upon a robust body of evidence.
- Built upon proven approaches, through the application of key lessons learnt from successful examples of court system transformations and models of dispute resolution that have demonstrated themselves to be effective.
- Have a central role for the right technologies, which can help deliver the transformations in the structures, management and processes of the two court systems that are needed.