Online court proposals could see reporters cover cases from their desks

Journalists will be able to cover some court cases without leaving their desks if new recommendations are implemented by the Government.

An advisory group is calling for the establishment of an HM Online Court, to settle some civil claims.

If the recommendations go ahead, cases would see judges decide cases online from 2017, to save time and money.

The proposals have been put forward by the Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) Advisory Group, which was set  up by the Civil Justice Council (CJC) last year.

The group suggests a three-tier web-based court service for cases that would normally be dealt with by a small claims tribunal.

The first two tiers would attempt to reach a virtual out-of-court settlement. But if this process failed, a judge would sit in a virtual court.

They would have the power to make a decision, or refer cases to a conventional court.

The normal appeals process would apply.

The Netherlands already operates a similar system. And internet trader eBay settles millions of disputes online, without involving courts.

The group’s report has been backed by the Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, who chairs the CJC.

He said: "Online dispute resolution is an area with enormous potential for meeting the needs of the system and its users in the 21st Century."

He believes that ODR will broaden access to justice and resolve disputes more easily, quickly and cheaply.

The scheme would be a plus for journalists. The media could cover cases that they normally miss due to lack of staff. Reporters wouldn’t have to argue about access with stroppy court ushers.

It is not clear, though, whether the new service will allow people to 'Like' the verdicts.

Cleland Thom is author of the Internet Law Guide

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