Will court closures really deliver justice?

Family Law|October 18th 2016

In this video I set out my thoughts on a speech given last Saturday to the annual Bar Conference by Lord Justice Ryder, himself once a high-flying barrister.

Entitled Raising the Bar: Innovation and global opportunity for a forward thinking profession, it set out the ways in which His Lordship sees the future of British justice. As a family lawyer, what I hear in his erudite speech is a great deal of emphasis on dispute resolution, an emphasis with all the focus on the legal process rather legally fair outcomes.

He spoke of travelling courts, an idea which will surely leave large areas of the country without convenient access to nearby court. Last week the government announced a timetable for the alarming court closures announced in February. Of course, these have already begun and are continuing in full force. We have already reached the third batch of closures, as ‘tranche’ as governments like to dub these. Next year we’ll see tranches four, five and six as a courtrooms across the whole of the country on this hit list close their doors and shutter their windows.

I worry too about the practicalities of the online court system mentioned by his Lordship. And there is no properly established and tested online system in place anyway. Despite this the government has pressed on with this huge closure programme. We are taking away access and not replacing it. Sir Ernest declared in his speech that “austerity…is not the driver of reform”. But if it is not austerity then just what is it?

Click ‘play’ to hear what I have to say.

And you can read Lord Justice Ryder’s speech here.

Author: Stowe Family Law


  1. spinner says:

    Don’t take this in the wrong way but I’m very happy that you are unhappy as it means things are moving in the right direction.
    I can only speak for my own case but it seemed a lot of the time was essentially spent unravelling the story of what had happened and all of this. In the end it didn’t really effect the outcome as in there were some figures and and some facts and a resolution was come to based on that. I suspect most cases are like that so to have an online system that cuts out the waffle and the consequence expense would be great. If you have an exceptional case and a lot of money is involved then have some higher authority to appeal to and go through the whole thing. One of the main issues I had with it was the length of time it took which was around six months between hearings. This was not a part of the process and caused a lot of damage in itself when the hearings could have been done a few weeks apart. So you say the overriding factor is fairness well for the me overriding factor is to limit damage to everyone especially the children and a streamlined online system that just dealt with the facts would be ideal.

    • Marilyn Stowe says:

      Dear Spinner
      I don’t know if you watched the video but I talk about delay. The closure of all these courts is having such a knock on effect that greater delay is happening already and it is inevitable it will get worse. It’s absolutely outrageous what is being done.

      • spinner says:

        I didn’t watch the video but I did read the post. It’s fine, the worse things get with delays the stronger the case will be to reform the system wholesale as people will point to what by then will be a completely dysfunctional system riven by among other things as you say, unacceptable delays.

      • spinner says:

        I used to post a few times a day on a popular divorce help forum which I had found useful myself, then I realised that by posting what I was doing was helping prop up the current system by helping people who were generally without representation and presenting in person. I don’t expect incumbents such as yourself to understand or be able to empathise why the system needs to change because you have so much invested in the current system, if I was in your position I wouldn’t either but change is coming and I think it will be driven by both the absolute failure of the current system to deliver anything approaching a reasonable service and by technology that consequently reduces the monetary value of the system so the vested interests will either not be there or be significantly reduced.
        Poor old John, he’s going to have to write a lot more blog posts on the topic “it was great in the old days when we had legal aid”.

  2. JamesB says:

    The logical thing would be to change to law to make it simpler and less expensive. Else people will avoid or go LIP. Trying to force the market or force politicians to pay for lawyers may have worked in the past before the public woke up to it being the publics money that the government frequently misspends. Supply and demand, cant litigate your way out of this as people are not willing to pay the amounts lawyers think reasonable, something has to give and think we are heading for a system like that for wills hopefully as its a bit of a con currently and not right we pay the lawyers to read Latin as I, like most people, would rather the money went elsewhere like most people.

    • spinner says:

      “The logical thing would be to change to law to make it simpler and less expensive.” – Exactly what needs to happen but expecting lawyers to support reforming the legal system is unrealistic as they are so invested in it which is why I think it needs to fail and then an outsider can go through it wholesale.

      • JamesB says:

        How many Brexit, Iceland, Trump elections does it take before politicians wake up that they are not representing as effectively as they should? (Rhetorical question).

        Reminds me of the catholic church 600 years ago, speaking in Latin where the audience don’t speak Latin. Like the St John’s bible, the church calling it Heresy to have the bible in English and condemning it. Well, like Drs and Lawyers closed shops, their time is coming, Tim Berners Lee saw to that, bullshit don’t sell as much any more.

  3. JamesB says:

    Tim Berners-Lee, and co and the internet and education and access to more information and cheaper international transport and globalisation and trade mean that the anachronistic class system the establishment and in that I include lawyers is no longer appropriate and we need a new better system rather than bitterness from them.

    Like big businesses know, if you don’t change someone else will and take your market, its why they do R and D. Tesco law and Wills type service and more less expensive cases please rather than just trying to squeeze more from fewer clients. That juice is not worth the squeeze.

  4. JamesB says:

    Also, I like the tea mug on the desk. Would be interested where you got it from please. Think I want one. I agree on that, although I think I prefer Tetley.

  5. Brian says:

    Close them, don’t close them, makes no difference, no such thing as family justice, there’s just social governance.

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