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Privatising the court system: 4 reasons why it's not such a bad idea

In response to the leak regarding privatisation of the HMCTS, the Ministry of Justice offered an interesting assertion, claiming that they were not for the “wholesale” of the courts system. Many feel less than reassured by this public statement and still believe that there is some level of privatisation on the horizon. Understandably, the leak wasn’t exactly met with positive reviews. Surely, in an ideal world, courts should exist for justice not for profit, right? Well, yes but it is important to consider the other factors that come in to play.

So what are the positives of complete privatisation of the courts system? Perspective plays a fundamental role; we need to consider not how the change would benefit the government but how privatisation would benefit us as a nation.

1) Technological advancement: We live in a day and age where most of us are completely dependent on modern technology. In spite of this, very few courtrooms today have access to Wi-fi and other forms of technology are virtually non-existent. In recent press coverage the government claim to have plans for the full digitalisation of courtrooms by 2016; with the current economic climate and the increase in budget cuts, we have to question whether this is an achievable goal.

2) Improved performance: In terms of court privatisation, if a private company wishes to renew their contract, it is essential that they provide an exceptional level of service; it is clear who will be made accountable for any failures. Generally, the only repercussions the HMCTS will face for sub-standard service is an occasional unflattering report and the odd slap on the wrist from the public accounts committee.

3) Better facilities:  Courtrooms today are generally old and rundown, in desperate need of refurbishment and renovation. Many have limited space and poor or inadequate facilities; what we need is some serious investment and privatisation may be the only way to secure the funds we need.

4) Overall enhanced organisation: Many firms raise issue with the condition of a lot of courtrooms today, citing issues as files going missing, cases being delayed and office hours for the most part being quite limited. Essentially, this is related to the three criteria listed above: lack of technology, lack of pressure on performance and a need for better facilities and space. Privatisation could potentially have a positive impact on all these areas.

Whether or not the full privatisation of the courts system is on the government agenda is debatable. However, it is clear that some changes have already begun to take place. When we compare the situation to British Rail, is privatisation really that bad? On a rough scale, we pay around £1.7bn every year to maintain HMCTS; one must question whether this figure is really worth it. Who is the real man for the job, the government or a private company?

The inevitable downside is that the decision, by and large, is really out of our hands.



'Privatising the courts: if anyone needs advice it's the judiciary.' Joshua Rozenberg, The Lawyer, 25/06/2013

'What's so bad about privatising our courts?' John Hyde, The Law Gazette, 29/05/2013

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