Long: Delivering change in the civil and family justice is vital to meet the needs of citizens
Justice Minister Naomi long today outlined plans for modernising civil and family justice within the current mandate to the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Delivering a statement to the Assembly, Naomi Long stressed the importance of an effective civil justice system in society:
“Civil and family justice touches the lives of so many citizens and often at a point when they are facing some of life’s most significant challenges, such as divorce, financial difficulties, injury or the death of a loved one. “While criminal justice often gets most of our attention, many more people come into contact with the civil justice system each year. Many will have had a positive experience, with cases dealt with efficiently and effectively, resulting in a swift resolution. Others will have found the process long, difficult and expensive.
"An effective civil justice system is also an important part of a well-functioning economy, helping businesses and their customers settle disputes quickly and effectively. “I want to do all I can to support more citizens to resolve their disputes as quickly, fairly and cheaply as possible in a system that is seen as just, proportionate and accessible.” Minister Long detailed ongoing work and a future delivery plan which will focus on two key priorities of making the civil and family justice system more accessible for citizens; and making the system fairer, more proportionate and more responsive.
Progress already made includes the installation of enhanced video and audio technology in court rooms, the introduction of enhanced protections for victims of domestic abuse in family courts and the introduction of a Bill to ensure parties in personal injury cases receive 100% compensation.
Building on that work, the next steps will be to publish a Modernisation Delivery Plan, which will include the launch of a probate online portal; and a Private Family Law Early Resolution Action plan, which is being developed in partnership with the Department of Health.
A Modernisation Delivery Plan is expected to be published in coming weeks. It will detail the areas of focus for the Department for the remainder of the mandate on the Ministers two key priorities of making the system more accessible and making it fairer and more proportionate and responsive.
The introduction of enhanced protections for victims of domestic abuse was brought forward in the Domestic Abuse and Civil Proceedings Act (Northern Ireland) 2021 (c.2). The Damages (Return on Investment) Bill was introduced to the Assembly on 1 March to ensure parties in personal injury cases receive 100% compensation for injuries.