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Spring Budget 2024: Hunt pledges £170m to make justice system ‘fit for the modern era’

Spring Budget 2024: Hunt pledges £170m to deliver a justice system "fit for the modern era"
Spring Budget 2024: Hunt pledges £170m to deliver a justice system "fit for the modern era"

Jeremy Hunt has promised £170m in order to deliver a justice system “fit for the modern era” during his much-vaunted Spring Budget.

Hunt stated that “too many legal cases, particularly in family law, should never go to court.” He added that “it would cost us less if they didn’t.”

The chancellor explained that the £170m would be used to fund non court resolution, reduce re-offending and digitising the court process.

According to the budget document, this included £55m for the family courts to offer online targeted guidance and earlier legal advice, shortening wait times and supporting families through non-court dispute resolution.

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The government will invest £100m into prisons to support rehabilitative activities and to reduce re-offending. While £15m will be used to introduce digital solutions, with the aim to reduce administrative burdens in the courts.

The full budget also outlines that the government is investing £12m to expand the scope of legal aid to encompass early legal advice in private family law proceedings for parties considering an application to the family court for child arrangements.

Hunt’s budget states that the government will utilise AI to reduce the need for manual scanning of paper documents through the introduction of “intelligent document processing technology” in the administration
of court cases.

The Crown Prosecution Service will be provided with £10m in additional funding for digitising jury bundles in the criminal courts, which the government stated will reduce paper wastage and unnecessary trial delays. It’s also said that by digitising the process, it will save up to 55,000 hours a year in court preparation time to enable reducing the length of trials.

Commenting on this proposal, Nick Gova, partner and head of family at London law firm Spector Constant and Williams said: “The courts are under significant pressure, some still reeling from the impact on the service since covid.”

“Moving matters from court as a first resort to other forms of non-court resolution, will assist parties and lighten the burden on courts, allowing them to deal with complicated cases and matters requiring intervention.”

“Investment in technology will facilitate quicker resolution,” he added.

However, the president of Law Society Nick Emmerson said: “The UK government has once again failed to address the crisis facing our justice system.”

“Small amounts of money to the family court system for early advice are welcome, but it shows the government isn’t facing up to the challenges plaguing the justice system.”

“Only through investment in staff, judges, legal professionals and our court buildings can the government begin to address these issues,” he added.