This briefing outlines the views of the Law Society in relation to the Courts and Tribunals (Online Procedure) Bill ahead of its second reading in the House of Lords on 14 May 2019.
This Bill allows for online and digitised procedures in the courts and tribunals system, which may result in cases being resolved earlier and more efficiently. This could lead to reduced costs for both parties and other benefits for those affected.
However, online and digitised procedures will not wholly compensate for the underinvestment in our physical courts and tribunals estate and processes, which has led to IT failures, a crumbling courts estate, and delays to cases being heard.
On the specific provisions of the Bill, we have three key recommendations:
A right to choose
We believe that primary legislation should provide for litigants to have the right to choose whether they wish to proceed with an online procedure or with a traditional court procedure.
There has been little research into the differing justice outcomes of different procedures.
A balanced rules committee
The Online Procedure Rules Committee will have the power to dramatically change court processes.
The committee should include at least one representative from each of the solicitor, barrister and chartered legal executive professions to ensure that it has access to the experience of the differing professional users of our courts and tribunals when creating new online rules.
Online Procedure Rules should be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure in Parliament when introduced through regulations.
New online rules may present a significant transformation in the way in which justice is delivered in our courts.
The affirmative resolution procedure would ensure appropriate parliamentary scrutiny of proposed new procedure rules.