Legislation to enable online proceedings is ‘drafted in a way that fails to acknowledge the fundamental right to a fair hearing’ a group of peers has warned.
The Courts and Tribunals (Online Procedure) Bill provides for online procedures in civil and family courts in the First-tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal and in employment tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal. The online court is a key component of the government's courts reform strategy.
The bill creates an Online Procedure Rule Committee (OPRC) to sit alongside the existing rule committees that determine procedural rules in court and tribunal proceedings.
The government said that the bill is initially intended to apply solely to low value money claims up to the value of £25,000. However in a report published today the Lords Constitution Committe notes that ‘nothing in the bill limits the use of online procedures to such cases'.
It says: ‘While ministers may have no intention of using the powers provided by the bill to undermine the right to an oral hearing, it is incumbent on parliament to frame the powers it confers in a way that acknowledges and respects fundamental constitutional principles.’
The report also warns that people who do not own a computer, who do not use the internet or who struggle with literacy could be disadvantaged by online proceedings.
The bill will progress to the Lords committee stage on Monday 10 June. It has yet to pass through the Commons.