First International Forum on Online Courts

Digital court reform

The Lord Chief Justice at the International Forum on Online Courts

The inaugural international online courts forum was held in London in early December, with more than 20 countries represented.

Presentations on the first day covered the current reform programme in England and Wales but also work in New South Wales, the Netherlands and Singapore, among many others. The second day was an opportunity to discuss common issues facing those implementing digital court reforms, including transparency, fairness, access to justice and participation. The Traffic Penalty Tribunal and the Canadian Civil Resolution Tribunal were explored as examples of successful online models from the civil jurisdiction.

Susan Acland-Hood, Chief Executive of HMCTS and co-chair of the forum, blogged ahead of the event on Humanising the Justice System, noting the importance of ensuring that the reformed system works for the people who use it, not just the people who run it.

This was echoed by the two keynote speakers at the conference, the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice (pictured). The Lord Chancellor said that reform can 'simplify, streamline, and put the citizen in the driving seat', adding that 'technology – never an end in itself – is a means to that end.' Reform, he concluded, will 'allow us to open up our justice system, make it more accessible, and put power back into the hands of the people using it'.

The Lord Chief Justice's speech followed a similar theme, arguing that online courts can deliver 'effective and accessible justice direct to the citizen' and suggesting that 'there is no reason why our forms, processes, and perhaps even some hearings should not be optimised for smartphones giving litigants effective access to justice from the palm of their hand'.

Copies of the presentations given at the event, many of which focus on examples from the civil jurisdiction, are available here. Sir Ernest Ryder's closing speech, which summarises the issues covered across the two days, is available here.

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