The UK Government White Paper Transforming Our Justice System (September 2016), and subsequently the introduction of the Prison and Courts Bill in the last Parliament, confirms the plans of the Ministry of Justice and senior judiciary to “automate and digitise the entire process of civil money claims by 2020” and the “interactive triage” role envisaged for litigants-in-person using the “Online Court” for certain civil proceedings. Modernisation and digitisation – including greater use of online procedures and virtual hearings – will also extend to tribunals and criminal proceedings. Traffic offences are already dealt with online in most parts of the country.
Lord Justice Briggs’ final Civil Courts Structure Review report emphasised that ensuring access to justice was one of the biggest concerns about digitisation of court processes. The White Paper estimates that 70% of the UK population can be “digital with assistance” and/or “digitally excluded,” meaning they will need support to engage in proceedings online. JUSTICE has been at the forefront of innovation around use of our courts and tribunals.
The working party
This autumn we will commence a new Working Party on assisting users with the coming digital revolution in our justice system. This project will look in particular at the opportunities and pitfalls of digitalisation and doing justice online and virtually. We will bring together a group of our members, and other experts to review how people accessing online services in a range of fields can be better assisted; to identify the necessary features of simple and accessible online interfaces; and the support required for users with differing needs. We will make practical recommendations to ensure that necessary support is an integral feature of the digital justice system and continue to work with the reform programme to instil a user focussed approach.