Let public access courts through smartphones, says Lord Chief Justice

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Top judge backs mobile ‘optimised’ hearings

There is no reason why litigants of the future should not be able to attend court through an app on their smartphone, the Lord Chief Justice has suggested.

Speaking at the first international forum on online courts this morning, Lord Burnett of Maldon trumpeted the benefits of digital justice in helping improve access to justice. He told 200 judges, academics and legal experts gathered at DLA Piper‘s London office this morning that technology had come on “leaps and bounds” over the last 20 years and that courts need to be willing to learn from the developments.

The Lord Chief Justice referenced Digital Justice: Technology and the Internet of Disputes, a book written by academics Ethan Katsh and Orna Rabinovich-Einy, and the concept of a “smartphone court”. Appearing to lend his support to the idea, Burnett said:

“But why not? 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. That facility is being developed in England and Wales. There is no reason why our online courts and justice systems cannot deliver effective and accessible justice direct to the citizen.”

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Burnett, who last year broke with tradition and delivered his first public speech as the judiciary’s head honcho via YouTube, continued:

“In putting it that way, may I reiterate my strong belief, which I know is shared by many: the citizen, the users of our courts, must be at the heart of the design process. We must ensure that modernisation is ‘user-centred’ in design and default, as much as it is digital by design and default.”

The forum is being hosted jointly by HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) and the Society for Computers and Law (SCL), a charity focused on the development of IT-related law.

Burnett, a former Temple Garden Chambers barrister, became the youngest Chief Justice in over 50 years when he scooped the top role last summer at the sprightly age of 59.

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I’m all for access to justice but does this sort of thing not trivialise the whole process? My view is that we as a society will end up being far more litigious than we were before because it’s too easy to raise an action against someone. On-demand society shouldn’t be universally applicable.


Pepe and Frands

Bugman & Soyboy LLP



I don’t think so.

The clients I get are a bunch of tits as is (which I’m sure is indicative of the norm) and can barely use toilet paper at the best of times without having a total breakdown.

Can you imagine what it would be like if you got them filling forms online…



Let’s get them photocopiers fixed first eh.



You’re a dinosaur mate.

It’s paperless now, innit?



You clearly haven’t e-filed documents and received the auto acknowledgment receipt to turn up at court and find out half the documents haven’t reached the court file.



Top judge goes through midlife crisis*



“Why not”

Indeed. Why even bother with an oath or asking them questions.



Let them Snapchat their evidence hey.

Sat on their sofa swearing at the court and judges if the decision starts to go against them because they feel safe and untouchable at home.

Or during a difficult cross examination they cut off the connection to think about their answer and blame it on technology.






The turnaround time for getting documents processed at certain county courts in London is currently 47 days, and rising steadily.
The civil courts operate almost entirely paper-based processes, where judges usually hand-write orders and then get them typed up by court staff. Even if counsel emails a word document through, these apparently *still* need to be put in the in-tray for *re-typing* before being sent out.
Somewhere under Central London County Court there is a room like the warehouse in the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark. My trial bundles for tomorrow’s trial are down there, somewhere, alongside the Ark of the Covenant and the lost treasure of the Sierra Madre.
MOJ needs to tear its attention away from dubious shiny things and direct its paltry resources towards doing what any normal organisation does in 2018 as a matter of routine – i.e. not chase bits of paper around the place.


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