Powers to require certain types of civil proceedings to commence in online courts would be created under a little-noticed Chapter 2 of the Judicial Review and Courts Bill introduced to parliament by the lord chancellor today.
The measures appear to revive those lost when the wide-ranging Prisons and Courts Bill ran out of parliamentary time in the run-up to the 2017 general election. They appear to create a framework for the 'funnel' of online courts envisaged by the master of the rolls, Sir Geoffrey Vos, earlier this year.
The legislation would create an online procedure rules committee with powers to require proceedings of a specified kind 'to be initiated by electronic means'; 'be conducted, progressed or disposed of by electronic means' or to 'authorise or require the parties to that kind of proceedings (and their representatives) to participate in hearings, including the hearing at which the proceedings are disposed of, by electronic means'.
Powers to make online procedure rules are to be exercised to ensure that procedures are accessible and fair, 'that disputes may be resolved quickly and efficiently' and 'that the rules support the use of innovative methods of resolving disputes'.
'Regard must be had' to the needs of people who require online assistance.
The bill also provides for coroners' inquests to be conducted wholly or partly electronically.
In explanatory notes to the bill, the MoJ says 'The increased digitisation of court processes requires a change in our approach to making rules. There will be an increasing need to produce short, concise rules which complement new technology and online working.'