In last week’s Spring Budget Chancellor Jeremy Hunt pledged £170m to improve the justice system in a bid to make it “fit for the modern era” by finding alternative ways to tackle the many cases that “should never go to court” saving significant expense.

During his budget speech, the chancellor set out how the £170m will improve the justice system.  He explained it would be used to fund non court resolution, reduce re-offending, and expedite the use of technology in the court process. 

How will the £170m be spent to improve the justice system?

£55m will go towards family law, promoting guidance and encouraging people to take advice at an earlier stage.  It is hoped this will shorten the current backlog and current waiting times and redirect families towards alternative dispute resolution options.

A further £100m will be invested in prisons to improve rehabilitation initiatives and, ultimately it is hoped, reduce incidences of re-offending.  

£15m will be invested in digital technology including AI and intelligent document processing solutions to decrease the amount of administration in courts and speed up the court process. 

£12m will be invested in legal aid to cover the cost of legal advice in private family law proceedings involving child arrangements. 

The Crown Prosecution Service will receive £10m to fund the digitisation of jury bundles for criminal trials to minimise delays, reduce the length of trials by reducing preparation time by an estimated 55,000 hours per year and reduce the amount of paper being  used in court.

While some legal commentators have received this news positively, believing moving a greater percentage of cases towards resolution options outside court will lighten the load for the courts and bringing in more technology should speed up the overall court process, Law Society President Nick Emmerson disagrees:

“The UK government has once again failed to address the crisis facing our justice system.  Small amounts of money to the family court system for early advice are welcome, but it shows the government isn’t facing up to the challenges plaguing the justice system.  Only through investment in staff, judges, legal professionals, and our court buildings can the government begin to address these issues.”

Some family law practitioners have also been critical.  They feel there are other ways the money could have been used to better effect, for example improving access to the Court system, finding ways to get cases to court more quickly, improving the existing online portal and pushing the recruitment of more family court Judges to work through the backlog of cases that initially built up during the COVID pandemic.

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