The European Commission has published the 2018 EU Justice Scoreboard which gives a comparative overview of the independence, quality and efficiency of justice systems in the EU Member States.
Peter Drucker, a well known management guru, is often quoted as saying that “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” In other words you can’t know whether or not you have achieved something unless the objective is defined and progress tracked.
The context for the Scorecard is set out in the Introduction.
“Effective justice systems play a crucial role for upholding the rule of law and the values upon which the EU is founded. In his 2017 State of the Union address, the President of the European Commission clearly stated that ‘The rule of law is not optional in the European Union. It is a must. The rule of law means that law and justice are upheld by an independent judiciary’. The European Commission’s First Vice President, Frans Timmermans, also underlined that ‘Respect for the rule of law is not only a prerequisite for the protection of all the fundamental values listed in Article 2. It is also a pre-requisite for upholding all rights and obligations deriving from the Treaties and for establishing mutual trust of citizens, businesses and national authorities in the legal systems of all other Member States’.”
What is disappointing in the Scorecard is the almost complete lack of data from the UK. Almost all of the other Member States have submitted data, which then allows a comparative overview of the various systems. Cooperation between nations to try and understand how their legal systems are performing, even if just in a comparative sense, must surely be an important policy aim. The Scorecard explains:
“Although data are still lacking for some Member States, the data gap continues to decrease, in particular for indicators on the efficiency of justice systems. … The remaining difficulties in gathering data are often due to insufficient statistical capacity or to the fact that the national categories for which data are collected do not exactly correspond to the ones used for the Scoreboard. In very few cases, the data gap is due to the lack of willingness of certain national authorities to contribute.”
While Brexit may mean that this comparative review of judicial processes becomes of less interest to the UK government, the concept of gathering data to measure performance should still be encouraged. Only once the data points are identified and understood can the bottlenecks in the current systems be identified and dealt with.