Chair’s Summary of the Strategic Engagement Group Meeting – May 2022

1. Introduction

This document summarizes the discussions of the Strategic Engagement Group (StratEG) meeting held on May 9, 2022. The meeting was a hybrid online and face-to-face event at 102 Petty France, London.

Members of the Bar Council, the Law Society and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives met with the Jurisdictional Leaders of the HMCTS Reform Program and the HMCTS Business Relations Team.

The agenda included 3 presentations on the new Divorce Law, a verbal update on the Common Platform and an update on the Family Private Law Digital Service.

2. Judicial reform

Each jurisdiction provided an update on its area and the implementation of its project.

At the next hearings, the deployment of the planning and listing tool “ListAssist” is on track and has reached 60% of operational staff. The publications and information project is also proceeding on schedule. There was a short break with the implementation of Video Audiences. Issues have been identified with its broadband connection, but the rollout is expected to resume in a few weeks.

In the Jurisdiction of the Courts, and under ‘manage your hearings’, the new SSCS 5 appeal form (HMRC appeals) will only be bulk scanned and ready for publication on 23 May 2022. In the Special Courts programme, the draft detailed the design work and legal proceedings. stakeholder engagement activities completed. Under phase 1, 5 of the 10 “special court” areas will be reformed.

The Criminal Jurisdiction Update included a verbal presentation on the Common Platform. The focus is now on enhancements to the functionality of case materials to replace the digital case system (DEC) in the Crown Court. The design phase is still open for improvements, but will soon be coming to an end. Feedback on the designs was solicited from groups of legal professionals before the final designs were developed.

In civil jurisdiction, the digital service for damages claims has started and the service has been mandatory for claimants since April 2022. short. The Online Civil Money Claims service is focused on advancing cases.

In family jurisdiction, the Adoption project is progressing, along with the Private Family Law project to deliver a digital application process. The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 came into force on April 6, 2022, allowing for “no-fault divorce”. There had been good interaction with the legal profession and the wider community on these initiatives. Further updates on digital private divorce and family law services were presented at the meeting as below.

3. New Divorce Law Update

The new Divorce Law Service went live on April 6, 2022. Feedback from legal professionals indicates that it went well.

The service includes changes to digital and paper divorce applications. The statistics will be collated at the end of June, but it seems that there are a good number of joint applications. The meeting received a verbal update on:

  • digital pathways of the citizen and the lawyer
  • joint and single application types
  • marriage and dissolution
  • centralized work in the Stoke-on-Trent service center
  • mass-digitized paper applications on the digital service

An HMCTS recording webinar on our new divorce service, webinar slides and instructional videos are available. Advice is also available on GOV.UK for the new online divorce service.

4. HMCTS Crime – Common Platform Update

The Common Platform was introduced in all 11 Criminal Courts in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire at the end of March 2022, following approval by the Senior Presiding Judge.

The implementation went well on the above sites and the system is stable. This represents approximately 50% of courts now using the common platform. Staff surveys will follow.

As of April 14, 2022, 112,000 files have been accepted on the Common Platform and 28,000 hearings managed. This is slower than at the district court which managed 160,450 hearings on the common platform.

The program assesses data from Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire, which includes the results of a survey the defense community was asked to complete.

5. HMCTS Family – Private Family Law Digital Service Update

The Family Private Law Digital Service presentation explained that the service will provide a reformed end-to-end data platform on court cases. The project is currently in private beta, will go into public beta and nationwide rollout in September 2022, then wrap up in December 2022.

The presentation outlined the Private Law Plan for Child and Domestic Violence Arrangements, Private Law Child Arrangements and Private Law Domestic Violence Releases.

Six law firms are involved in the private beta. Applications submitted under the private beta are managed by the centralized Southampton National Business Center team. This office is supported by the Family Courts of Southampton, Gloucester, Exeter and Swansea. Individuals will be able to use the C100 pilot project and existing arrangements to submit applications.

Current position and next steps:

  • version 1 successfully delivered on April 20, 2022
  • version 2 will include the end-to-end digital journey and a solution for low-volume private law “edge” cases
  • the public beta – administration of the digital service will move to the Stoke-on-Trent service center and the service will go live for all legal professionals and citizens
  • version 3 – includes improvements and integration with CAFCASS (including hearing management consumption)
  • project closure – transfer of the project to “business as usual” operation is currently scheduled for December 2022

6. Next meeting

The next meeting of the Strategic Engagement Group is scheduled for July 5, 2022. It is expected that the meeting will be held in person.

Caroline Olaia

Head of Corporate Relations, HMCTS and Chairman of the Strategic Engagement Group.

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