Research at HMCTS

An overview of research undertaken by HM Courts & Tribunals Service.

HM Courts & Tribunals (HMCTS) is an executive agency, sponsored by the Ministry of Justice. We are responsible for the administration of criminal, civil and family courts and tribunals in England and Wales. We are also responsible for non-devolved tribunals in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Overview

HMCTS is transforming the way in which justice is delivered. Through our reform programme we’re modernising and upgrading our justice system so that it works even better for everyone.

To properly understand what our users want from a modern justice system, we’re gathering evidence and carrying out an extensive programme of engagement and research. This helps us to understand the needs and expectations of our users. It also helps us to understand the likely impacts of any changes made as part of the reforms and lets us evaluate whether they’re effective.

We are committed to communicating the research we conduct and to collaborating and engaging with those who carry out their own research on the justice system.

Our approach

We carry out research using the full range of qualitative and quantitative methods across multiple disciplines and analytical professions.

  • Behavioural research – attempts to understand how people make decisions and how this influences their behaviour. This can help services design interventions and solutions to behavioural challenges
  • Operational research – applies quantitative methods to help make sense of HMCTS data and conduct analyses to help services operate and reform more effectively
  • Social research – provides data and analysis to inform service design and delivery across HMCTS using established social research methods such as:
    • data analysis
    • focus groups
    • in-depth interviews
    • social surveys
  • User research – employs primary qualitative research techniques (e.g. interviews, observations, usability testing) to understand how people use HMCTS and their needs and preferences when doing so.

Evaluation

Evaluation is vital to understanding the implementation and impact of changes and to assess whether they’re effective. Evaluation helps identify what works and what doesn’t, highlighting good practice and identifying unintended consequences.

Evidence gathered through evaluation can provide HMCTS with greater accountability and a strong evidence base for future decision making.

To ensure that the impact of changes to the justice system are evaluated impartially, evaluation activities are often conducted independently of HMCTS. Recent examples include the process evaluation of the 2018 Video Hearing pilot.

Publications

Our research and evaluation publications include:

  • HMCTS citizen user experience research – Kantar Public was commissioned by HMCTS to carry out research among court and tribunal users to understand their experiences and needs when accessing HMCTS services
  • Implementing video hearings – This report sets out the findings of an independent process evaluation of the Video Hearings Pilot (party-to-state) in 2018

The Ministry of Justice also publishes a wide-range of statistics relating to the operation of the criminal and civil justice systems, including courts and tribunals.

Procurement

Where necessary, we commission external organisations to conduct research that meets our evidence requirements. Our external research is commissioned through a competitive process. You can find a list of current research contracts on Contracts Finder.

Apply to conduct research at HMCTS

You can apply for permission to access HMCTS to carry out academic research through our Data Access Panel.

Working with us

Analytical and research jobs at HMCTS are advertised on Civil Service Jobs. We also host Ph.D. students on the UKRI Policy Internships Scheme and final-year undergraduate students on the Government Social Research sandwich placement scheme. Others interested in working with us should get in contact directly to discuss opportunities for collaborative working.

We recently collaborated with Dr Natalie Byrom, Director of Research and Learning at The Legal Education Foundation, who was seconded to HMCTS between September to December 2018 to advise on strategies to enhance academic engagement and improve the availability of data for research purposes.

Get in touch

If you have any questions or would like further information please contact the HMCTS Insight Team by email.