In March 2017, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) released a new video entitled “Justice Matters”, to promote and inform viewers about the forthcoming Online Court system. The video, which can be accessed on Youtube, allows for quick viewing time, being just over five minutes in duration.
The MoJ is said to have an ‘ambitious vision to build a courts and tribunal system that is straightforward to use and which works for everyone.’ The MoJ has therefore invested £1 billion into their new vision with the hope of transforming the current experience and “creating a service that’s designed around the people who use it”.
The concept is for the Online Court to be a system that everyone (lay persons) can use and understand. The idea is that it will be utilised for uncontested divorce cases and probate applications, as well as some criminal cases.
Along with the Online Court system, the MoJ video explores the potential for video hearings which aim to increase efficiency as a result of reduced travel time. Other potential options being considered are extended court opening hours and the utilisation of other public buildings such as town halls.
The MoJ also wishes to make the time of its Judges more efficient and focused on legal matters by the increased use of case officers and better IT systems allowing digital case access and sharing.
Towards the conclusion of the video, the MoJ claims that the new changes will ultimately reduce running costs by “over £250 million every year”. It is added however (rather grandly), that
the rewards aren’t purely financial. There is a very real cost to how well justice is delivered and that’s how many lives, which would otherwise be on hold, are put back on track.
It is anticipated that the scheme will be introduced in a piecemeal fashion, with petitions for divorce being one of the first procedures to utilise the Online Court.
It is clear from the MoJ that it is setting about a revolution of the current court system. Huge claims are made about the efficiency and accessibility of the Online Court and a vast financial investment has been injected into the vision.
We will have to wait and see what the opinion of its future users will be as to whether it can be regarded to have succeeded in meeting its goals or otherwise. There will however be many cynics to win over in the meantime as the experiences of other large scale governmental IT projects are far from celebratory.