The Justice Select Committee has published its report into court and tribunal reforms. The report draws on evidence given by Resolution and others, and finds that the modernisation programme could leave vulnerable people unable to get the legal advice or decisions they need.
The Chair of the Justice Select Committee, Bob Neill MP, said: “We understand that courts and tribunals are strained to breaking, with systems that ever more people are having to try to navigate for themselves. Court staff and the judiciary are trying hard to improve services in the face of underfunding and cuts. But we are concerned that a vulnerable person – a victim of crime, a woman seeking an order to protect her children, a person with learning difficulties – could be left trying to negotiate enough time at a library to file papers or tune in to an evidence hearing where they are trying to get justice.
“We understand and support the principle that modernisation is overdue. But we ask the Government to pause for breath to make sure that everyone of us who needs the court system – to manage a divorce, to seek fair payment, or to get through family cases and criminal cases – must be able to get to court, to access justice, where and when they need to.”
Evidence given by Resolution, in both its written submission and by Jo Edwards, Chair of the Family Law Reform Group, during an oral evidence session, showed that half our members have seen their local family court close recently. Many said that their clients’ travel time to court had increased by 30 minutes to two hours each way.