The noise associated with the Government’s proposal to increase the small claims limit for injury cases to £5,000 may have drowned out another equally important announcement in the Autumn Statement: that some £700 million has been allocated to the MoJ to bring the court service up to date. A short summary was posted on The Policy Blog at the end of November.
This initiative is absolutely not about securing more IT spend so that courts can do more of the things they do now but more efficiently, nor is it just about arranging more video-conferences and attendances. It is a quite fundamental rethink of accessing the courts digitally, how they are structured and how cases and evidence are managed.
On 23 June 2015 Michael Gove, the new Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, gave his first speech since his appointment following the general election in May. Its prosaic title “What does a one nation justice policy look like?” underplays both the eloquence of his defence of the rule of law and the potential ambit of reforms to deliver civil justice online.
The first of these may be a shrewd move by Mr Gove to make friends in the legal sector at an early stage in his tenure. The second may mark the start of a serious move towards virtual delivery of significant parts of civil dispute resolution, thus avoiding the snowdrifts of paper and pink ribbons.