A report launched today by the Civil Justice Council and Professor Richard Susskind suggests that claims under £25,000 should be heard in an online court.
The system would allow for low value disputes to be resolved quickly and save costs. Judges would decide cases online - interacting electronically with litigants including telephone or Skype.
Critics are concerned that this could lead to a two tiered legal system. With only those who can afford lawyers in big ticket litigation having 'their day in court'.
The court would have three separate tiers for those seeking redress. The first would focus on dispute avoidance — helping people diagnose and resolve issues — with the second using experienced facilitators to help parties reach agreement. Only at the third stage would professional judges become involved, deciding cases online or with the option of phone hearings. Decisions would be as binding and enforceable as usual rulings. The online court would reduce costs and the need for hearings in some civil cases. Currently small claims up to £10,000 and personal injury claims of up to £1000 make up almost 70 per cent of total hearings in the civil courts. However the number of small claims hearings has declined in recent years — from 51,046 in 2003 to 29,603 in 2013.