Traditional court rooms may soon become obsolote as the justice system moves into the digital era

Judge calls for online courts

Trials of the future should be carried out over the Internet instead of in court rooms, the second most senior judge of England and Wales has suggested.

According to Lord Dyson, the UK is lagging behind other countries which have already embraced the digital era and incorporated digital elements into their judicial system.

Commenting on a proposal of a state-run online civil court system put forward by the Civil Justice Council, which advises the modernisation of the civil justice system, Lord Dyson said such development would be an ‘exciting milestone’.

The digital justice system, the council envisions, would operate in parallel with the traditional court system under the Ministry of Justice, possibly enabling overall streamlining of procedures and increasing access to justice.

The council proposes setting up a pilot scheme focusing on civil disputes involving less than £25,000. According to the proposal, judges would be deciding cases remotely after studying available evidence and would, if necessary, conduct additional hearings via telephone.

"I see this as an exciting milestone in the history of our civil justice system," said Lord Dyson, who is the Master of the Rolls and the head of civil justice in England and Wales.

"We have been very slow off the mark in this country in taking advantage of technology in our justice system. Other countries are way ahead of us."

Naming faster and more efficient resolution of disputes as the main advantages, the judge admitted that the delivery of a 'fit for purpose' system may be the main challenge.

The proposal for the creation of an online court comes five months after a senior judge called for courts to cut down on paper and move into the digital age.

In September, Lady Justice Gloster, who sits in the Court of Appeal, said the numbers of bundles of documents used in trials were similar to when she started her legal career four decades earlier.

The 65-year-old judge said, in an interview with financial news agency Bloomberg, that change had to come.

Earlier in 2014, the Ministry of Justice said changes were planned. In March, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said technology in courts would be updated, adding that hundreds of millions of pounds would be spent in coming years.

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