Snub for the new court 'customer'

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The Independent Online

The use of consumer-friendly jargon by the courts isn't working, senior staff have told the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine of Lairg.

Court officials have discovered that by describing all court-users as "customers" they have failed to identify thousands of people who attend court against their will. Lord Irvine has been told that although some litigants may recognise themselves as customers, defendants in criminal cases have no choice in the service they are required to use.

Senior court officials have made clear that they are now "unhappy" about the word. In a newly published court service plan they admit that "customers" does not "sit easily with many of those to whom we provide services". The report says: "There are those who choose to use our services rather than pursue their aims by other means and it is perhaps more appropriately applied to them rather than those who have no choice or who receive the service we provide against their will."

The plan also includes proposals to drag the court services into the 21st century. One idea is to introduce "flexible and family-friendly work patterns" so that "our customers" can receive services out of the "usual court hours". Another goal is to bring fully integrated IT to courts.

The report adds: "The world around us is moving forward at a rapid pace, and we must anticipate and respond to these changes, and the changing needs of our customers, if we are to continue to improve our service in the future."