The lord chancellor has thanked court staff for their work over the past year, describing them as the ‘hidden heroes’ of the pandemic.
In a speech delivered at the Law Society this morning, Robert Buckland said he is ‘personally committed to getting justice firing on all cylinders’, citing live links in criminal proceedings, uncapped judicial sitting days, more remote working, and a new ‘super court’ in Loughborough for gang-related crime and sex-trafficking cases.
‘The pandemic has changed our society forever. In our courts and tribunals it has cemented the need for remote participation in hearings to be available and, going forward, we want the effective use of audio and video technologies to remain an integral part of the justice system,’ he said.
Buckland thanked court staff and the judiciary for their work during the Covid crisis, citing their ‘enormous’ efforts to keep justice running. ‘They really are hidden heroes and they do not get nearly as much credit as they deserve for all they do to keep us safe and our society fair,’ he said.The controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – which is currently at committee stage – will ‘act as a launching pad for us to make even better use of technology as it evolves’ he added.
He also thanked lawyers for ‘the fortitude they have shown and the dedication to justice they have demonstrated. The system could not work without them. As we now emerge from the acute phase of the pandemic and the economic situation evolves, I will continue to be the legal sector’s advocate from inside government.’
Looking to the future, the lord chancellor said he wants to ‘re-define the nature of dispute resolution in our country’, pushing for ‘simpler alternatives’ such as mediation and conciliation, rather than litigation.
‘I think for far too long so-called “alternative” approaches…have been viewed as some sort of add-on or diversion for people seeking to resolve a dispute. I want them to become the mainstream, so that we can embrace radical new ways to solve legal conflicts throughout our society, from families to businesses and beyond,’ he said.