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IT success stories show online court can work – Briggs

The architect of the future online court system says recent experience of IT projects gives him confidence the scheme will succeed.

Lord Justice Briggs, whose recommendations for online dispute resolution are being consulted on by the government, said civil litigation is on the ‘threshold of a technological revolution’.
Speaking at a Law Society event on Thursday, Briggs acknowledged there are challenges facing those building the online court system – not least how to ensure those who cannot access technology can still use the platform.

He also stressed he did not want to destroy the ‘jewel in the crown’ – the quality of oral hearings in England and Wales.

But Briggs said recent examples of IT in the courts – the Crown court digital case system and Rolls Building e-filing – show what can be achieved.

‘We have had a series of developing outcomes which give great confidence to think the history of successive [IT] disasters is something we have learnt from and something we should not expect,’ he said.

Briggs stated the digital case system (DCS) has 17,000 users in the Crown court adding more than 500,000 pages each week.

‘It is fair to say DCS and CE files [e-filing] are all IT success stories,’ he added.

Briggs admitted there has been a ‘less than complete’ take-up of e-filing in the Rolls Building where its use is still voluntary.

That is set to change next year when use of the CE-file system will become mandatory for all court users.

The Court of Appeal judge revealed the stage one, triage, element of the online court is already being developed, with an ‘extraordinary level’ of engagement from the judiciary.

HM Courts and Tribunals Services, which has committed £700m to a courts upgrade by 2020, will establish a group of litigants in person to establish what questions will be asked of users at the first stage.

A group made up of members of the legal profession will also be formed to give a ‘practical structure’ to the plans.

Briggs reiterated his views, expressed in his report in July, that law firms will have to contemplate greater use of unbundling when the online court comes into force.

‘It is part of the model that a fixed-costs regime should encourage advice from a qualified lawyer – that is best delivered in some way by unbundling [rather] than a cradle-to-grave retainer.’

By John Hyde

(Courtesy of the Law Society Gazette)