Courts go digital with summer pilot launch
Courts are finally inching towards digitisation with an impending pilot scheme set to begin July 2017.
The Civil Procedure Rule Committee have just revealed IT-compatible draft rules that will not only see claims settled online but will be user-friendly with use of plain English for the benefit of the litigant in person.
The legal world has been feeling under increasing pressure to catch up with the corporate world in its take-up of technology to ease legal processes. And with ongoing advances in advanced hardware and cutting-edge software coming on-stream, the days of rocking up in front of a judge weighed down with case-files could be on the wain particularly as the UK risks falling behind other countries who have happily jumped on board the tech wagon.
E-justice in Turkey has created a paperless system and Australia is now viewed as a global leader in digitising court documents. Even the US which is often marred by being a much larger and diverse jurisdiction is on its way to becoming paperless.
Although the pilot has by no means been an easy task to set up, Lord Justice Briggs has recommended that civil courts be restructured into a 3-stage process for disputes to be resolved virtually and speedily. Cases for the meantime will be limited to specified claims under £10,000, one case at a time per user by invitation only.
The three stages for running a case will be (1) automated triage to assess merit; (2) conciliation and case management involving a trained case officer; (3) resolution before a judge if necessary, all supported by a variety of platforms – documents accessed by computer, telephone, video or face-to-face meetings.
The CPRC wishes to ensure the effectiveness of the pilot by encouraging both claimants and defendants “to remain in the online system for as long as possible” and that “users would know that they are entering a pilot as a controlled group from the outset and could leave the pilot at any time.” User support will be offered both through the website and a call centre.
Some concerns raised in the CPRC meeting was about fees and potential discrimination if the fee ended up being higher than the existing ‘Make a Claim Online (MCOL)’ government scheme. The other question was whether there will be a limit to the number of characters used in detailed particulars of claim as limited by the software.
The digitisation of the UK system is inevitable and desirable. However, we should not make the mistake of trying to cook up the ‘ultimate blueprint’ which would ultimately fail but to develop it incrementally, organically, taking people on board with it as it develops.