Get ready for the online court!

The Government and the judiciary have announced that the civil courts are to be automated, with cases put online by 2020. The plan is ‘digitise’ the entire process for money claims, such as for debt or personal injury: from the issue of proceedings to trial, everything will be done online.

There are 1.6 million claims issued in the County Courts and High Court each year, and 80% of these are money claims. The Government hopes to change the way litigation on these claims is carried out. Instead of bits of paper (such as pleadings and witness statements) being posted back and forth, they will introduce digital working to speed up the process.

This may be welcome news to anyone involved in court claims at the moment, where even a ‘fast track’ claim (with a value between £10,000 and £25,000) can take nearly a year to resolve. However, it remains to be seen how far the Government will get with the plan, given that the courts’ relationship with new technology has not always been a happy one. A digital litigation system sounds good, but will require significant investment and training for judges and court staff.