Digitisation of the civil courts of the future
The Master of the Rolls and Head of Civil Justice, Sir Terence Etherton, delivered the Lord Slynn Memorial Lecture on 14th June and laid out the plans for the 21st century court system.
Managed decline of the court systemThere is a six-year plan to modernise the court estate, a core element of which is the IT system. A decade of austerity, which has led to a reduction in court administration and staff, the judicial complement, maintenance of the court estate and the closure of parts of the estate. This has been happening at the same time as the reduction in Legal Aid and the increase in court fees, which has led to a rise in the number of litigants in person, as claimants are looking to keep their costs down. Their lack of knowledge of the judicial process and rules has placed an increased strain on the court system. Sir Terence says that what was needed was a complete rethink of how justice is delivered, to stop the “managed decline”. Part of the six-year plan is the creation of an Online Solutions Court and the digitisation of the court system.
Common approach for civil, family and tribunal claimsThe Online Court system will develop new systems and processes that will be designed for litigants in person, rather than simply digitising the current procedures. It aims to develop a common approach, online procedural rules and online claims portal for civil, family and tribunal claims, again to improve efficiency and streamline administration. It will also embed problem solving – whether meditation, EDE (early neutral evaluation) or a new online dispute resolution service – as one of the three stages of the online court.
- Stage one - pre-issue, covering some of the same ground as the pre-action protocols, to help claimants find the right sources of legal advice
- Stage two - case officers helping claimants with ADR (alternative dispute resolution) including a new online dispute resolution service
- Stage three - adjudication by the judge, but by telephone, video-link or on the papers, rather than a hearing in a traditional courtroom