The country's first courts and tribunals service centres will open the justice system to more working people, HM Courts and Tribunals Service and the Ministry of Justice have announced today as part of its £1bn modernisation reforms.
Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent will host the centres, employing more than 300 people each in roles involving processing cases, issuing court orders and hearing notices, in addition to answering telephone and online enquiries.
Justice minister Dominic Raab said: 'These new administrative centres will make sure we deliver better services for those using the courts system, whilst delivering better bang for the taxpayers' buck. The move is part of our £1bn reform programme to digitise the justice system - making it more sensitive for witnesses, more convenient for other users and better value for public money.'
Last year, HMCTS dealt with over 4.1 million criminal, civil, family and tribunal cases. The government expects to open more centres which will handle mainly associated enquiries.
According to today's announcement, the centres are being planned based on research into what users want and need, in consultation with judges, magistrates and legal professionals, and agencies that represent the public and support people with cases going through the justice system.
The centres 'go beyond what has been done before, because they go beyond telephone answering', the government said. 'They underpin wider changes in how and where the justice system can be accessed. People can now access easy-to-use services online – including applying for a divorce, making a benefit appeal, entering a plea for a speeding offence – making the justice system more open to working people.'
Plans were also announced for a new 'operating model' to collect criminal fines. Staff based in 50 countrywide locations will be moved into three centres: in Leeds, Runcorn and Cwmbran.