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Is it time to update our courts online?

Is it time to update our courts online?

A report has landed on my edesk from the Civil Justice Council which recommends that online justice or virtual courts should be implemented as a trail with the possibility of further extension before too long.

Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson said in in his foreword to the report, that ‘courts have some catching up to do with other areas of business and government.’

Her Majesty’s Online Court (HMOC) could be just a short step away, similar to the system pioneered on eBay, online dispute resolution (ODR) as a well-established model.

Small money claims

It is proposed that financial claims under £25000 should no longer be heard in open court, but by judges sitting at computers with papers received by email, with complex issues being discussed by phone.

All judgements would be as legally binding as they are now delivered in public court.

Couples seeking divorces and the dividing of assets could have decisions made by this method, along with family court matters and care cases.

Extending the reach

The report’s author, Professor Richard Susskind said that existing systems should run alongside an electronic one for a time. The report is summarised by Lewis Dean on International Business Times.

But, it’s easy to see that from civil cases would quickly follow the criminal justice system, almost in its entirety. Certainly disputed traffic cases could be determined online remotely. Why not?

Would a line be drawn at murder?

Maybe, for a time.

The whole thing should be cheaper, save on travel, be less intimidating, modernise the process and in an age when ever more people seek to represent themselves, make justice more accessible.

But does it smack a little too much of Big Brother running our lives? The concept of a jury of our peers trying us in public courts would be completely changed.

There is no suggestion (yet) that judges would be replaced by virtual ones – only that online would be better value and be more modern.

Does it matter?

Views online, please.

Image: Lonpicman