The recent MoJ and HMCTS digitalisation reforms, discussed in Chapter Three, have been developed primarily as an operational project. That is to say that, despite the reforms representing a major change to justice processes, there is expected to be comparatively little by way of substantive changes to the law (at least in the foreseeable future). The existing law will instead be given new practical enacting frameworks. This approach means that responsibility for deliberating on and developing digital processes has been left largely with civil servants within HMCTS and the MoJ, with Parliament only providing a ‘drip-feed’ of legislative activity and oversight thus far. Other developments in the digitalisation of administrative justice – such as the increasing use of automated processes in public sector decision-making – have seen similar patterns. At the core of the story of how digital technology is impacting administrative justice is therefore civil servants, their approach to process design and the government’s own IT capabilities.
One key trend in administrative justice design in UK central government is that it is increasingly influenced by ‘agile’ or ‘design-thinking’ approaches. This method is underpinning how many online administrative justice systems, including online tribunals, are being constructed, and is being widely promoted by leading technologists in government. Although many lawyers will not be familiar with it, design thinking is now a well-established field of study in its own right. The premise is that design as a cognitive process – a ‘more interpretative, intuitive mind-set that characterizes the arts and creative professions’ – does not have to focus on products alone but can be extended to other fields.