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Bringing the Current Court System up to the 21st Century

digitisation of the 21st century

We have recently seen an article detailing the new plans for bringing the current court system up to the 21st century.

The main points of the article highlight the need to enable people to do as much digitally as possible. This will not only free up time of the court itself but prove much more cost effective and streamlined for all involved.

With the recent changes of Legal Aid being reduced more and more people have had to represent themselves and with limited knowledge this has put pressure on the current resource available at the courts.

There is currently a plan in place that will take place over 6 years modernise the court estate, a core element of which is the IT system.

The proposed process

The Online Court system will develop new systems and processes that will be designed for litigants in person, rather than simply digitising the current procedures, develop a common approach, online procedural rules and online claims portal for civil, family and tribunal claims. 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

The Benefits

  • Apart from the immediate benefits to lawyers of no physical filing cost and the option to outsource this, digitisation will also mean that case files will be available in the Cloud, so will not need to be physically stored or transported between court hearing centres.
  • Traditional court rooms are costly, but as fewer will be required with the online court, this will create the opportunity to develop areas for litigants to access the justice system digitally. “pop-up” courts in public buildings are also being considered, with the Tunbridge Wells Borough council chamber currently being used as a test centre for civil claims.

Conclusion

This modernisation is undoubtedly needed and will be welcomed by court users, although, of course, these new facilities need to be completed, tested and fully functional as quickly as possible to mitigate the impact of the large-scale programme of court closures.

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