In an increasingly female dominated political landscape, perhaps it’s no surprise that the new Chief Executive responsible for overseeing the modernisation of our Court System is a woman, and she comes to the role with an interesting background.
Susan Acland-Hood may not be a name familiar to most working inside the Justice System, but she’s been advising government ministers on a range of issues, for some time.
As a civil servant private secretary, she covered Home Office and Justice matters. Susan then became former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s adviser (2007-2010), offering him information and guidance on policy and legislation relating to education, skills and families. In a list put together by The Telegraph which sets out Gordon Brown’s top 50 influencers during his time at No.10, Susan was listed at number 43.
After working with Brown, she then went on to head up Enterprise and Growth at HM Treasury, as its Director. There, she was responsible for policies on growth, business, infrastructure, exports, competition and markets, and advised on public spending for Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (now called the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy), the Department for Transport (DfT), the Department of Energy & Climate Change (which has since merged with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy) and the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), as well as growth-focused policies of each of those Departments.
Susan was also the Director of Education Funding at the Department for Education, where she managed all revenue funding for schools, and all capital funding across the Department.
In October of this year, the government announced that Susan would be heading up the Courts & Tribunals system, but it is today that she takes up that appointment. She has chosen Kevin Sadler to be her Deputy.
In her new role as CEO of HM Courts and Tribunals, she plans to deliver the Reformation programme set out, and has a budget of a billion pounds to do this. In the formal press release for her appointment, Susan says:
“I am very pleased – and know I am very privileged – to have been appointed as Chief Executive of HMCTS. I cannot imagine a better job.
What the courts and tribunals do every day is supremely important. States without justice do not function; the rule of law is one of the things that makes us civilized, and lets us live life knowing that there are some fundamental underpinnings of fairness.
I’m starting in the Ministry of Justice at a time when we have a remarkable opportunity to make a difference. The programme of root and branch change that Ministers, the judiciary and my HMCTS predecessors have developed together is one of the boldest plans in Government. And it is a plan whose time has come. With the Treasury prepared to back it to the tune of a billion pounds, we can deliver what is probably the biggest change to the system in modern times. By building what we do around the experience of those who use the system we can make justice so much better for the millions who rely on it.
I am delighted to have Kevin Sadler – who has been central to the development of the reform programme, and has led it so ably during recent months – as my Deputy CEO. His experience will be essential as we move forward.
While I intend to be mostly in ‘understanding and listening’ mode in my first few weeks, there are a couple of things that I want to be clear about from the outset. The first is that we have a great reform programme that needs delivering on, not uprooting – and my job is to keep it moving, not to start again from scratch. Secondly I’m clear that HMCTS staff are dedicated, professional, and committed to delivering a really excellent service – and my job is to lead in a way that helps them do that, including by clearing out obstacles that get in the way.
I’ve been lucky in that I was able to visit quite a few courts and tribunals around the country before I fully took up post. From those early visits I took away a clear sense of the great work that goes on in our courts and tribunals. I saw some of the changes in action – the Digital Case System and Single Justice Procedure, for example – which powerfully brought home the real impact of reform in enabling us to move away from antiquated, paper-based systems.”
Susan is not going to reinvent the wheel. Her primary motivation will be to resuscitate a system on its knees by trying to make the modernisation programme economically viable. How she will do this remains to be seen, but we very much hope it will include a long term focus on what’s best for service users, rather than the illusion of financial flash in the pan success for the current government.
If you’d like to share your thoughts on modernising the Family Justice System with Susan, she’s just opened a Twitter account under the name of @CEOofHMCTS .