Controversial online court will need careful piloting – CJC

Topics: Civil justice,Courts business

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  • Lord Justice Briggs

Influential advisory body the Civil Justice Council has urged a measured approach to the adoption of a new online court for civil cases.

In a response to Lord Justice Briggs’ interim report on civil justice, the body of leading judges and academics reiterates its support for a three-stage process in resolving disputes online.


But the response acknowledges that the debate around what category of cases can and should be exempted from the online court – or even whether its use should be compulsory – was likely to be ‘controversial’.

The CJC says it wants the online court to have a separate set of rules and to be run in harness with the main court structure, and recommends that the government pilot any attempt to create a ‘radical shift in mainstream dispute resolution’.

Briggs (pictured) has suggested the creation of an online court for claims worth up to £25,000 to provide access to justice without incurring the cost of lawyers.

Following the proposals of legal academic Professor Richard Susskind, the proposed format would consist of three stages: an automated service for identifying issues; case management by assigned officers; and resolution by judges.

The CJC said Briggs’ report was a ‘timely intervention’ to the issue of how the civil justice system should be configured and reformed to meet the needs of its users and of society.

The group said successful online claims systems already in use can provide examples of what can be achieved.

The CJC response states that some activities must be reserved for judges, and also supports the suggestion that for certain functions case officers should be legally qualified.

‘In any event, training and supervision of case officers, and the ability for parties to have decisions reviewed by judges, needs to be an integral part of processes.’

Briggs has said judges may well need more training in the law relevant to a ‘substantially wider caseload’.

Several questions need answering before the review is complete in July, according to Briggs, including what types of claim should be excluded, what costs will be paid by each side and whether any appeal should be made to circuit judges.

The issue of online courts has already divided sections of the legal profession, with the City of London Law Society largely backing the plans and the Law Society suggesting that online courts are suitable only for straightforward low-value disputes.

Readers' comments (5)

  • Crap idea. Won't work. Will generate loads of satellite litigation about the "separate set of rules" which apply to it. Next.

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  • 'influential' ? In what way John ? As in watching the complete obliteration of legal aid ? Failing to prevent the toadying up of insurers to HM Govnt Ministers to personal injury from dying on its backside and criminal practices being criminally wiped out, whilst seeing plans for multiple court closures and issue fees rocket by 600% !

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  • How does the Court intend to cope with the issues of LIP's issuing their claims far too early because they have had no proper legal guidance? The idea of a smooth running process (as the PI portals were imagined) for LIP's with designated 'case handlers' who will in actual fact have to be properly legally trained is quaint but I really worry that the system will be mired by spurious and ill-prepared cases, the latter of which could drag on for years.

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  • One cannot help but feel this is £25000 Small Claims limit by the back door

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  • Does this Council have on its team someone who works with County Courts on a regular basis so as to give them an insight into what actually happens?

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