Future claimants could face “gruelling journeys” to attend appeal hearings, the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union argued last week, following the release of reform plans by HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS).
Under the new plans, a “reasonable journey” is one that allows a court or tribunal user to leave home no earlier than 7.30am, attend their hearing, and return home by 7.30pm the same day, including by public transport where necessary.
Thee PCS has strongly condemned the proposed 12 hour day claiming that:
“Court users and staff face gruelling journeys which we believe are unreasonable for the overwhelming majority of people who attend court.”
“We believe efficiency is a euphemism for cuts to a public service which we maintain is already creaking under unrelenting pressure and chronic underfunding and is largely reliant on the goodwill and professionalism of our members.”
The union believes that HMCTS has rushed out its report before the parliamentary justice committee can complete its investigations into changes to courts and tribunals.
“We believe that the timing of this announcement is extremely cynical and that HMCTS should not have made any decision, let alone announce it, before the select committee has published its report on HMCTS and its recommendations addressed. We also have grave doubts HMTCS will honour its commitment not to propose court closures unless they have sound evidence that the reforms are actually reducing the use of those buildings.
“This is also the case for its commitment to fully consult on future plans as previous consultations have been based on fundamentally flawed utilisation figures and HMCTS has closed courts against overwhelming public opposition.”
PCS has given evidence to the justice committee that far from improving access to justice, “so-called modern ways of working” are “are slowing down and threatening the quality of justice and service that is delivered.”
HMCTS claim that they will take into account the needs of vulnerable users and consider providing local video links in some circumstances.
You can download a copy of the HMCTS document Fit for the Future: transforming the court and tribunal estate from this page