England: Lawyer warns of ‘online court’ threat to access to justice

Peter Wright

Proposals to use online courts to resolve civil claims of up to £25,000 represent a threat to access to justice, a leading lawyer has warned.

Peter Wright, director of DigitalLawUK and chair of the technology and law reference group at the Law Society of England and Wales, said: “Many questions are still to be answered.”

He added: “This includes whether or not people will be able to access fast enough internet connections and if any provisions will be made for people who do not have English as a first language.”

Mr Wright said he believed the online courts plan, currently under development, was “driven by cost savings”.

He made the remarks at an event at Inner Temple to mark the opening of the legal year, the Law Society Gazette reports.

Lord Justice Briggs, whose Civil Courts Structure Review concluded with the publication of its final report in July, had said the online court project “offers a radically new and different procedural and cultural approach to the resolution of civil disputes”.

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, said the expansion of online courts is part of the HM Courts and Tribunal Service’s (HMCTS) ongoing reform programme.