The Future of the Justice System
A joint statement called ‘Transforming Our Justice System’ by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Chief Justice and the Senior President of Tribunals has set out what their collective vision is for the future of Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service.
The statement stresses the need for radical change and modern IT systems and processes in buildings that are fit for their purpose, so that the UK justice system continues to be a world leader.
In essence, the desire is to make the court process simpler and more consistent, with greater transparency that cuts both the cost and length of proceedings, whilst also making the process more accessible to all.
The planned shift is a move away from physical documents and court hearings to virtual ones. Online forms and a new procedural code will streamline and simplify the court process for all and on certain cases the matter will be completed entirely online.
For example, the process of civil money claims (which accounts for more than 80% of the claims in the County and High Court, 83% of which are uncontested) will be digitised and automated by 2020. ‘Fast track’ claims will also be digitised, improving the current 11 month timeframe for a claim to be resolved. Clarity of costs shall also be considered, with the view that there shall be a shift away from losing parties being burdened with unfairly high costs and giving parties the ability make a more informed judgment on legal action. Additionally, the County Court’s power of granting attachment of earnings orders shall be extended to the High Court, to ensure that successful claimants receive what they are entitled to from their debtors.
One result of this digitisation will be that the more inefficient, expensive court buildings can be closed as hearings are virtualised. This process will also provide a benefit to lawyers and individuals as time and money will not have to be spent travelling to and from court.
The Ministry of Justice has also published a consultation regarding its actions in bringing about reform whilst also fielding opinions on some discrete measures.
This consultation does touch on many of the same themes as the joint statement. The Ministry of Justice is looking at creating a new, simplified system, with a greater reliance on technology, mostly mirroring the statement’s vision. Parties will also be encouraged as far as possible to resolve disputes themselves, with a greater emphasis on alternative dispute resolution and mediation. The statement contains suggestions regarding fixed costs and the extension of earning orders.
Ultimately if any change is brought about it shall be undertaken by the Ministry of Justice. The deadline for the response to their consultation ends on 27 October. It will be interesting to see the response they receive and it will be important to watch this space.
For more information, contact our Dispute Resolution team on 0345 070 6000.