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  • Matthew Spencer - Tech Journalist

National Audit Office says the UK courts system recovery taking longer due to data sharing practice

The pandemic is holding its mark aggressively on every known channel, and even the court system is no different. Due to the heavy workload created in the distancing times and old files piling up dust, it became difficult to file them timely.



In March 2020, when lockdowns began, the court saw a 48 per cent increase of reports which was 60,692 higher from a previous calculation. The National Audit Office (NAO) published a statement saying the COVID-19 holds back data sharing and recovery, making a backlog situation that translates to the UK court systems failure.


The court dealt with 1.24 million cases within 30 June 2021 which is 90,000 more than the Crown Court. The Crown Court handles more severe cases, and there are lots of exchanges in data from the defendant to the offence. A process called ‘listing’ is made in the judicial function. Three hundred sixty-four thousand new cases were received this year, but they did not comply in magistrates’ courts. Ministry of Justice (the Ministry) and HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) published in-depth reports and released critical findings on the matter.


Though the Ministry allocated 16% fewer sitting days, the backlog increased from 33,290 on 31 March 2019 to 41,045 within the following year. Lord Chancellor gave 859 additional days for sitting to clear up the queues, but the state remained unchanged as more cases came piling in. HMCTS data strategy and delivering access to justice reports and recommendation says the court system in England and Wales is going through rapid changes with €1 billion in court reform.


HMCTS made a commitment to deliver stakeholder proposals by overreaching, along with taking evolution developed from ‘access to justice’ and ‘vulnerability’ data. Public sector industry principal Alex Case said, “The NAO report is sober reading." He also mentioned, “capacity is critical, and MoJ has some innovative ideas for this.”


In the early stage of the pandemic, HMCTS responded pretty quickly and introduced an emergency governance structure. The structure rolled out the audio and video technology for remote hearings, which was much needed to keep the ruling procedure afloat. But those were only for time-critical or urgent cases and those posing threat to national security according to paragraphs 2.2, 2.4 and 2.12.


However, there remains a limitation in all aspects of data transmission, whether it may take longer for processing or when extracting valid data from a pool of data. The Ministry of Justice or the court system needs to understand the future demand according to newsletters. From September 2020 to July 2021, Her Majesty’s Court & Tribunals Services saw increased criminal court capacity by 30 per cent, and the Crown Court saw 7 per cent.


Other significant risks remain at the Ministry as they are working closely with HMCTS as part of the long-term efforts to speed up the process. The motto of the courts is pretty straightforward, and they will have to be just, proportionate and accessible to everyone. To keep the faculty ongoing is part of the effort taken by the authority even in pandemic times. Part of it is adjusting the data system to make it as fluent as possible so that cases don’t stay piled up and people get a fair judgment from the system without delay.


HMCTS has two primary proposals to define ‘access to justice and ‘vulnerability’ under substantive and procedural law. Special thanks to the handbooks made by the HMCTS, Tribunals Service and Ministry of Justice as they provided the most updated data in the report, which helped compile this story. Even though the National Audit Office declared the poor data sharing practice holding back post-pandemic recovery, the court system still depends on a lot of staffing to compile those data.

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