HM Courts & Tribunals Service could create online small claims court

A report by the Civil Justice Council has called for HM Courts & Tribunals Service to integrate digital solutions into its services, recommending the introduction of an online claims court to handle civil cases worth less than £25,000.

The Online Dispute Resolution report said that online services to resolve smaller civil disputes could help ease pressure on the “creaking” civil justice system and speed up resolution processes.

The report used the example of online auction service eBay, which solves an estimated 60 million online disagreements online per year.

The Civil Justice Council’s Online Dispute Resolution Advisory Group commented: “for low value claims, we are concerned that our current court system is too costly, too slow, and too complex, especially for litigants in person.

To overcome these problems, our main recommendation is that HM Courts & Tribunals Service should establish a new, internet-based court service, known as HM Online Court (HMOC).”

HMOC would offer an online evaluation service to categorise the case and advise future measures; for simpler cases “online facilitators” would review the case without the need for judges, whilst more complex situations could be reviewed by full-time or part-time judges through electronic documents.

The report estimates the cost of the service would be minimal and be taken from the HM Courts & Tribunals Service’s £75 million reform budget.

IT industry trade body techUK’s head of cyber, justice and emergency services, Ruth Davis, said: “the technology industry welcomes the work being undertaken to digitise the courts system.

However, it’s vital that digital innovation across the criminal justice and policing systems is joined up, rather than just addressing the needs of individual organisations.”

Related reading