Online courts could hear thousands of cases
|An online court should be created to hear civil claims valued at up to £25,000, the judge tasked with overhauling the courts system has recommended.
The controversial proposal, released in a report yesterday, from Lord Justice Briggs (pictured), triggered warnings from lawyers that most claimants would be channelled into a “second tier” system where they would be forced to pursue complicated actions without legal advice.
However, according to the final report of his structure review of the civil courts, Lord Justice Briggs, a Court of Appeal judge, enthusiastically backed the pilot online court programmes, which could ultimately hear tens of thousands of case annually. “The online court project offers a radically new and different procedural and cultural approach to the resolution of civil disputes,” he said.
The Times reported that the judge claimed that moving lower grade civil claims to an online dispute system “may pave the way for fundamental changes in the conduct of civil litigation over much wider ground than is currently contemplated by its first stage ambition, to resolve money claims up to £25,000 subject to substantial exclusions.”
His suggestions have already stirred concern at the Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales. “Any moves towards an online court for claims of up to £25,000 must avoid the risk of entrenching a system of two-tier justice,” said Chantal-Aimee Doerries, QC, the council’s chairwoman.
The Bar fears that “individuals opting to use a lawyerless online court process could easily find themselves in litigation with big organisations which can afford to hire their own legal teams”.
David Greene, a former president of the London Solicitor Litigation Association and senior partner at the law firm Edwin Coe, said: “It is vital that we all have confidence in the online court, its functioning and development. The marriage between IT and the court process has not always been a happy one and so the recognition by Briggs of piloting with smaller claims is all important”.
Commercial mediations increased by about 5 per cent last year in the UK, with their value exceeding £10.5 billion, figures from a London-based dispute resolution body revealed yesterday.
The 2016 audit from the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution claimed the results showed that some businesses saved £2.8 billion in management time, relationships, productivity and legal fees by opting for mediation over conventional litigation.
The figures also highlighted how profitable the sector is for those arranging and running mediations. Service providers last year earned £22.6 million, which was described as “an impressive return on investment for the UK economy when compared with the savings for businesses in costs”.
According to the report, lawyers were “generally pleased” with the quality of the mediators, with 60 per cent rating those they worked with as very good.
The report also found that for the first time there more non-lawyers – 57 per cent – than lawyers acting as mediators.
Complaints watchdog to move to alternative dispute model
Alternative dispute resolution methods should be used more widely to resolve arguments between clients and their lawyers, the legal profession complaints watchdog has said.
The Legal Ombudsman’s office announced that it “will be reviewing our options later this year” in relation to ADR”. In a strategy paperreleased in the past few days, it said that this year it would consider dusting off its application to become an official approved entity under the Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (Competent Authorities and Information) Regulations. The ombudsman’s office postponed its application in 2015.
Office for Legal Complaints (OLC) decides not to proceed to become an ADR entity
See Press Release
With the embarrassing withdrawal by LeO of their application to the Legal Services Board (LSB) to become certified as an ADR approved body for the purposes of the ADR Directive EU Directive The Law Society has issued revised guidance regarding the new requirements which will apply from 1 October 2015 in relation to the information solicitors are required to provide to clients at the end of a solicitor’s internal complaints process.
The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) have approved a number of ADR entities who will be able to provide ADR services in the interim and beyond.
Legal Ombudsman’s (LeO) application to the Legal Services Board (LSB) to become certified as an ADR approved body for the purposes of the ADR Directive has been withdrawn.
EU Directive on consumer alternative dispute resolution (ADR Directive)
Solicitors must comply by 1 October 2015 with the ADR Directive.
Chartered Trading Standards Institute’s approved list Trading Standards approved list
LeO Proposed changes to the Scheme Rules
This will affect Scheme Rules 4.4a, 4.4b, 4.5, 4.6 and 5.7 in particular. Full details will be included in the consultation document.
Background to the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Directive and Regulations2
The EU published a Directive on ADR in May 2013. The requirements of the Directive come into force in UK law through Regulations made under the European Communities Act 1972.
The purpose of the Directive is to:
- Ensure that all consumers in the EU have access to an ADR scheme to seek redress when they have experienced problems with goods and services that they have purchased;
- Set some common quality standards for ADR providers, for example, in relation to how quickly complaints are dealt with; and
- To reduce consumer confusion.
In January 2016 these regulations will be supplemented by the requirements for Online Dispute Resolution (ODR), which will provide amongst other things for an online platform to signpost consumers through to the correct ADR body, and to facilitate cross-border disputes.