Courts and Tribunals (Online Procedure) Bill

In May 2019 the government introduced the Court and Tribunals (Online Procedure) Bill. It would allow for technology to be used to help the public resolve disputes online in:

  • civil and family courts in England and Wales
  • the First-tier Tribunal
  • the Upper Tribunal
  • employment tribunals
  • the Employment Appeal Tribunal

The bill would create an Online Procedure Rule Committee (OPRC) to oversee and introduce Online Procedure Rules (OPR).

The bill failed to complete its passage through parliament before parliament was prorogued in October 2019 to prepare for the Queen’s Speech.

The government may decide to reintroduce the bill but it would need to start the legislative process again.

Our view

Online procedures in the courts and tribunals system may result in cases being resolved earlier and more efficiently. This could lead to reduced costs for both parties.

However, these procedures will not entirely make up for the underinvestment in our physical courts and tribunals estate and processes, which has led to:

  • IT failures
  • a crumbling courts estate
  • delays to cases being heard

We made three recommendations to amend or strengthen the bill.

A right to choose

We believe litigants should be able to choose between an online procedure or a traditional court procedure.

There has been little research into the differing justice outcomes of different procedures.

A balanced rules committee

The OPRC will have the power to dramatically change court processes.

We recommend that the OPRC should include at least one solicitor, barrister and chartered legal executive so that different professional users of the courts and tribunals system are represented when new online rules are created.

Appropriate scrutiny

New online rules may mean big changes in the way in which justice is delivered in our courts.

The OPR should be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure in parliament to make sure the proposed new rules have appropriate parliamentary scrutiny.

What this means for solicitors

We’ll update you if the government reintroduces the bill.

What we’re doing

May 2019 – we made recommendations on the bill ahead of its second reading in the House of Lords 

Resources

Read more about court reform and the Law Society’s view of the changes 

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