One of the judges overseeing the online court pilot has told sceptical lawyers they will have to get used to the new reality of litigants acting alone. It was confirmed last week that the pilot of the online court will begin at the end of July.
Mr Justice Birss reported to the Civil Procedure Rule Committee last month that the process of laying the groundwork had been ‘difficult’ but that draft rules had been developed, along with the necessary IT.
Birss told the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers conference that the system is intended to be operated by a litigant without a lawyer.
‘Clearly a severely injured person can’t be expected to do it on their own but the online court, if it works, will allow people to bring a claim without the need for a lawyer,’ he said. ‘The idea is the system will ask the right questions and the litigants will get the right responses. It can be done and will happen and everyone needs to get used to the way it is going to go.’
In the pilot, cases allowed to enter will initially be limited to specified claims under £10,000, with users able to run only one case at a time. Cases that fall out of the pilot at certain points will go into the mainstream under civil procedure rules.
The system is likely to be partly modelled on the existing Money Claim Online government scheme, but there are further discussions needed on fees and restrictions on the claim form. Currently the online claim system limits users to statements of 1,080 characters.
The online court will be voluntary on both sides and help will be available for both parties either through the website or a call centre.
Birss accused some lawyers in court of failing to treat litigants with respect, saying this was a ‘really important thing that is not said enough.
‘An awful lot of litigants are not stupid and they know they are being given the run-around and it’s not a nice position to be in,’ he added.