HM Courts & Tribunals Service has no external commissions for research into the impact on justice outcomes of video hearings or links, the Gazette has learned.
Since the 2016 launch of the £1.2bn court reform programme, HMCTS has been continually called upon to investigate the impact of video hearings on outcomes.
In 2016, a report by The Boston Consulting Group highlighted concerns about HMCTS’s lack of awareness over what effect the reform programme would have on users. It recommended that the project produce ‘an overall reform narrative, articulating expected benefits in terms of social and justice outcomes’.
In 2019, a Commons Justice Committee report cited the lack of research, claiming: ‘What there is raises questions as to its suitability for anything other than straightforward cases’. It called upon the Ministry of Justice to commission independent research with a primary focus on justice outcomes, and said this research should be completed before there is more widespread use of video technology.
According to a freedom of information response, the MoJ and HMCTS are evaluating the reform programme to understand what effects the programme has had, and research will be commissioned as part of these evaluations.
It also stated that HMCTS has commissioned research to evaluate the use of remote hearings during Covid-19, ‘although this does not include evaluating justice outcomes’.