The Judicial College, the national training institution for judges, may need to make “even greater savings” despite suffering “dramatic” budget cuts of 23% over the last three years, Lady Justice Hallett, the college chairman, has warned.
“Frankly, I wonder whether we have emphasised this stark fact sufficiently,” Hallett LJ said in her introduction to the Judicial College 2014-2015 prospectus.
“Unfortunately, cuts of such a magnitude cannot be achieved by tinkering but only through staff reduction and spending less on training. The College has done both.
“Staff reduction was achieved by a ‘voluntary early departure scheme’. A reduction in training expenditure has been achieved by changing the length of courts’ residential seminars from two days’ training spread over three days to two days’ training spread over two days.”
Hallett LJ said that similar savings had been made on the tribunals’ side.
“Much as the College would like to revert to three day seminars, there is no real prospect of our doing so in the near future, given the present state of resources,” Lady Justice Hallett said.
“What we can do is to encourage all those who design courses to make the most efficient and effective use of the time available.”
However, she said that, despite the austerity measures, the Judicial College had “become, and is now recognised as, a world leader in judicial education and is justifiably proud of that fact”.
She said the college had introduced a new learning management system, accessed via the judicial intranet, which allowed “virtually all the process involved in attending a seminar” to take place online.
Hallett LJ explained that preparation for seminars was now the subject of a protocol aimed at limiting the quantity of training materials, the time required to prepare them and improving presentation and organisation.
The college has introduced a new one-day module on case and costs management, in response to the recommendations of the Jackson report, and updated its existing module, ‘costs for the civil judge’, to reflect the changes.
Lady Justice Hallett said that, despite the effects of the economic downturn, the latest Judicial College prospectus contained “the widest and most ambitious programme of education for courts’ judges” it had offered.
The amount of training judges received for the Jackson reforms has been the subject of criticism, and earlier this week, Professor John Peynser, a former chair of the Civil Justice Council’s costs committee, warned that the biggest threat to the success of costs budgeting came from the “inconsistency and lack of expertise” of the judges involved.