On 15 March 2021, the Lord Chief Justice, the Minister for Justice and the Director of Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service (NICTS), launched a document setting out their joint vision for modernising the courts and tribunals in Northern Ireland. The Vision Statement outlines plans for a Digital Strategy setting out how courts and tribunals services will be delivered in the future, “moving from cases mainly being heard in a physical environment to hybrid and virtual environments, enabled by digital solutions and new ways of working.” A copy of the Vision Statement is available in the publications section of the NICTS website.
Welcoming the launch Sir Declan Morgan said: “This is a long-term programme of work which will transform how court and tribunal services are delivered in this jurisdiction. We will build on the solid foundations which have already been put in place as we have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic and adapt to new and innovative ways of working in the digital age.”
In her speech at the opening of term, the Lady Chief Justice, Dame Siobhan Keegan agreed that the vision was both creative and practical, saying that “While it is very likely that hybrid hearings will become more usual practice they are just one aspect of a new approach.” “We are a small jurisdiction however and we must therefore develop our approach taking into account the experiences of others.“ “Alternative, less formal, quicker, and more cost-effective ways to address disputes will also be a key part of the toolkit available in the future to secure the administration of justice. Some of those involved in court proceedings do not wish or need formal court hearings or complex legal argument to achieve that aim.”
The 'Judicial Modernisation Paper September 2021' sets out the views of the judiciary on how modern courts will work, to provide just, proportionate and accessible outcomes, where technology can support or enable these changes, and will help inform the NICTS Digital Strategy and plans for delivery going forward.