Judge gavel with Justice lawyers having team meeting at law firm in background. Concepts of law.HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) is moving forward with data collection recommendations made by researchers, despite claims that progress is ‘disappointingly slow’.  In a recently released paper, HMCTS has set out the progress in the last 12 months against 29 recommendations made by academic, Dr Natalie Byrom.

HMCTS says its reform programme will enable it to become an increasingly data-driven organisation. It claims that this will support operational decisions about deploying staff, prioritising work and provide insights for service improvements.

In 2019 Dr Byrom, director of research at The Legal Education Foundation (TLEF), published a report on data and academic engagement in the courts service, following secondment to HMCTS.  She advised on strategies to enhance HMCTS’ academic engagement and improve how it makes data available for research.  The report set out 29 recommendations on evaluating the impact of the online court programme.

Twelve months on, Kevin Sadler, HMCTS Acting Chief Executive, has welcomed Dr Byrom’s recommendations on data collection.  He said her sustained contributions “have been particularly integral to our progress on open and shared data.”

Mr Sadler says that HMCTS has begun to implement many of the recommendations set out in the report.  These include specific commitments about the timeframes for critical initiatives, such as collecting data on protected characteristics.

But the TLEF has slammed what it claims is HMCTS’s slow progress.  Matthew Smerdon, Chief Executive of TLEF said: “If the window of opportunity was vanishing a year ago when we first published the ‘Digital Justice’ report, it is now at risk of disappearing completely. Over the last 12 months, HMCTS has made disappointingly slow progress at moving forward on any of the major recommendations made by Dr Byrom.”

James Burgoyne, Director – Claims & Technical, of Brunel Professions says that collecting accurate data not only about the impact of digital court reforms but also in other areas is of great importance.  “Dr Byrom’s recommendations include the capture of data of significant interest to the professional indemnity insurance market – for example her twelfth recommendation which deals with identifying the outcomes of cases which were discontinued before legal judgement. It would be invaluable to have this data centralised and available, as for commercial reasons, insurers are often wary of releasing their own data. This makes building a truly comprehensive picture difficult. It was great to see that this recommendation was included in those accepted by HMCTS,” he explained.

Recommendation 12: [HMCTS should commit to] collecting data on the outcomes of cases e.g abandoned/withdrawn/settled/ determined and the amounts awarded/settled for across the different processes, e.g. Continuous Online Resolution, Online Civil Money Claims. (4.36.7)

Dr Byrom’s ‘Digital Justice’ report and HMCTS’ paper on the reforms have been published on HMCTS’ website.  Reaction and reports have been published by TLEF, Legal Futures, Disability Rights UK, and Law Society Gazette.

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