More court video evidence planned

The body overseeing the modernisation of the civil justice system is calling for an “online court” to be developed in England and Wales to reduce costs.

The Civil Justice Council’s report recommends an Online Dispute Resolution system, which would see judges deciding some non-criminal cases online, without the expenses generated by a court.

The report suggests a pilot followed by a full roll-out in 2017.

Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service says it welcomes the report.

The proposed scheme would be similar to the one used by online marketplace eBay to diagnose and resolve disputes.

Online facilitators would be used to help parties reach an agreement, and if that fails, online judges would make rulings as binding as those made in court.

The BBC’s legal affairs correspondent Clive Coleman says the report is not calling for improvements to the existing civil justice system, but for a radical and fundamental change to the way courts deal with low-value claims.

Electronic interaction
The report notes that the dispute resolution system run by eBay settles 60 million disputes between small traders every year.

Principal author, Prof Richard Susskind, said the model was “remarkable” and could be used in a similar way in the civil courts system which was “too costly, too complex and too slow.”.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he said eBay disputes “are minor differences but so are the very many differences in our civil courts system”.

Prof Susskind, who is an IT adviser to the Lord Chief Justice, said the online court would have “a three-tier structure, and we expect most disputes to be resolved at the first two stages without a judge becoming involved”.

Under the proposals, tier one would be “dispute avoidance”, helping people understand their issues and identify the best way of resolving them.

Tier two would be “dispute containment” using facilitators to help the parties reach agreement on resolving the issue.

Finally, tier three would be “dispute resolution”, employing the use of online judges to consider cases online, largely on the basis of papers received electronically, but with an option of telephone hearings.

Prof Susskind said the system had the potential to resolve tens of thousands of cases every year and cost less for the parties involved and the taxpayer.

Lord Dyson, chairman of the Civil Justice Council, said: “This an important and timely report.

“There is no doubt that ODR has enormous potential for meeting the needs – and preferences – of the system and its users in the 21st Century.

“Its aim is to broaden access to justice and resolve disputes more easily, quickly and cheaply. The challenge lies in delivering a system that fulfils that objective.”

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