Sir Ernest Ryder

‘The modernisation of access to justice in times of austerity’ was the title of this year’s annual Ryder Lecture, delivered by one of the most senior judges in the country and Chancellor of the University of Bolton, Professor The Right Honourable Sir Ernest Ryder, Senior President and Lord Justice of Appeal, PC Kt TD DL LLD (hc).

Now the Senior President of Tribunals, Sir Ernest is at the helm of a root and branch review of the tribunal system which promises to transform the legal system for a digital age.

Describing it as ‘the largest programme of change in any justice system in the world’, Sir Ernest told his audience that while austerity may be the catalyst for reform he was adamant justice for all is indivisible and must be assured.

The focus would be on the digitalisation of the tribunals system to create virtual hearings, simplification of processes and a review of how judges work in the future, aiming to create a more efficient, user-friendly system. His reformist agenda being: ‘one system, one judiciary, and a quality assured decision-making process’.

He assured his audience that the digitally disenfranchised citizen would be fully supported in the tribunal process and that the focus was on empowering citizens. ‘Citizens are not supplicants coming to the hand of justice, they come bearing rights,’ he said. Tribunal judges’ deployment would be reviewed, he said, to look at how they can become multi-specialist judges and so preside over more complex cases without having to refer cases to other courts.

The process now, he said, was to communicate plans and continue to review. ‘We want to work with people, reviewing and redrawing the plans over the next four to five years,’ he said.

Vice Chancellor of the University of Bolton, Prof George Holmes: ‘That was an extremely impressive exposition which put two or three points very relevant to this university, assuring “access to all” and “quality” and the work to be done in squaring that circle.’

A full transcript of Sir Ernest’s lecture can be read here






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