Lord Justice Briggs has today (26 July) published his final report into the structure of the civil courts, as part of which he backs an Online Court for straightforward money claims valued at up to £25,000.
The new court would be designed to be used by people with minimum assistance from lawyers, with the expectation that it will eventually become compulsory for cases of up to £25,000.
The concept of an online court first emerged in the UK in the February 2015 report “Online Dispute Resolution for Low Value Civil Claims” submitted by a group chaired by Professor Richard Susskind.
It is already being developed by HM Courts and Tribunal Service, however it is still the topic of fierce debate, amid concerns that court users needing to use the Online Court will be denied access as a result of facing technical difficulties, with the Government’s IT record under fire.
In today’s report under the heading ‘Litigants Challenged by Computers’, Lord Justice Briggs found that any litigation is a challenge for individuals without access to legal advice. However, the online system could be of assistance in helping them to navigate their way through a dispute.
Those without broadband or computers will inevitably need support, however, Lord Justice Briggs said: “It is not a realistic answer in my view to seek to solve the problem of the computer challenged by the permanent retention of a parallel paper-based equivalent to online access.”
He added: “The solution lies in my view in the most intense search for, funding, development and testing of services to assist the computer-challenged, sometimes called ‘Assisted Digital.’”
Designing the Court’s IT for use on smartphones and tablets, which many people own, is also likely to widen accessibility.