Are online courts and digitisation the key to delivering an adequate and fit-for-purpose justice system? Well, not according to the chair-elect of the Bar Council, Andrew Langdon QC. Writing in a blog post at the end of the political conference season, Langdon said modernising courts and creating more digital services is only half the battle in delivering an adequate justice system; what’s needed, he argued, is fundamental change.
Writing after this year’s Conservative and Labour party conferences, Mr Langdon said that whilst the representative body may support the concept of ‘modernisation’ it also believes the government needs to ‘re-invest in other aspects of infrastructure. Without this investment and fundamental reform of the justice system, he believes the system will fail to deliver justice, regardless of what advances are made in technology.
Langdon said that during the conferences the council ‘continually pressed’ for an abolition or reduction in court fees and for a meaningful review of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act. LASPO, he said, was ‘widely accepted by all parties to have brought about unacceptable consequences’. He also said that there needs to be rapid progress to introduce a new Advocates’ Graduated Fee Scheme to replace the current ‘discredited’ scheme.
Concerns about the use of online courts in civil money claims had already been raised by chairman of the bar, Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC. She argued that current modernisation plans ran the risk of creating a ‘two-tier justice system.’
After council meetings with justice minister Oliver Heald, attorney general, Jeremy Wright, and solicitor general, Robert Buckland, at the Conservative party conference and shadow lord chancellor, Richard Burgon at the Labour conference, Mr Langdon said:
‘There is always room for cynicism, but that should not, and does not prevent us from making our case to those in a position to do something about it,’ he said.
He added that to provide a full and fair representation of the interests of each branch of the legal profession, it was vital that the Bar Council and the Law Society worked together:
‘It is perfectly obvious that we benefit from close cooperation, and that cooperation was exemplified by joint efforts at a number of the key fringe events to explain the reality of the work we do, and of the work we want to do, in the public interest,’ he said.
‘The key people in each party have heard what we have to say. We need, relentlessly if necessary, to continue to make the case,’ he added.