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Online Court Services

Industry News : 5 March 2015

The online dispute resolution (ODR) system could increase access to justice and streamline the court process. The CJC says the ODR would address concerns that the court system is too costly, too slow and too complex – particularly for the growing number of litigants in person. Small claims cases worth up to £10,000 account for almost 70% of hearings in civil courts in England and Wales.

It urges HM Courts & Tribunals Service to set up a pilot as soon as practicable with a view to rolling out an online court nationwide by 2017.

The service is likely to be restricted to civil claims under £25,000, although the report says the jurisdiction of online courts could be extended to suitable family disputes. It is thought the scheme would be similar to the one used by eBay to resolve disputes.

The report’s principal author, legal futurologist Professor Richard Susskind said: ‘This report is not suggesting improvements to the existing system. It is calling for a radical and fundamental change in the way that our court system deals with low-value civil claims. ‘Online dispute resolution is not science fiction. There are examples from around the world that clearly demonstrate its value and future potential, not least to litigants in person.’

The report proposes a three-tier model: the first providing online evaluation and facilitation to help users classify their problem and if possible bring any dispute to a swift conclusion. The second tier will involve some automated negotiation to help find a resolution without any human expert involved.

In the third tier, full-time and part-time judges will decide cases online, largely on the basis of papers submitted to them electronically.

The Law Society has welcomed the proposals but said ‘Proper consultation and investment would be essential’