back to article We're four years away from digitising England's courts – report

An ambitious new report proposes digitising all court processes in England and Wales within four years - but this, as the report itself recognises, will require significant behavioural changes from practitioners if it is to come to fruition. In the biggest shake-up of the court system since the Woolf Reforms in the late 1990s …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Never going to work

    The "practitioners" don't seem to have any idea how incomprehensible their rules and processes are to Litigants In Person - and until they do there's no chance of an online small claims court working, as they'll just replicate (and, experience of the increasing complexity of the current system suggests, add to) the existing paper-based system. It's already got to the stage where as an LIP you really have to buy a depressingly popular and expensive book to either bring or defend a small claim.

    Of course a cynic might suggest that it's not lack of understanding on the part of the legal professionals involved but a clear focus on keeping their shop firmly closed to those pesky amateurs...

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Never going to work

      So to the complexity and obfuscation of the legal profession we are going to add the simplicity and clarity of government electronic data transfer standards and have it all documented by offshore contractors.

  2. Richard Jones 1

    Already Gone Binary?

    I thought that they were well along the path to binary working.

    We have the CPS, widely discredited as the Criminal Protection Society who only appear to try to pursue the innocent over the guilty.

    The inferior court* who believe that the guilty should be set free in ever greater numbers so the innocent may suffer more.

    The application of the human wrong act to ensure that the newly created pseudo rights of drunken and drug taking thugs have precedence over the right to life and liberty of those of a less violent bent.

    As for the court of abuse* part of the set up to abuse those members of society who are unable to defend themselves, its corrected name speaks for itself. How they could issue orders requiring three different treatments for the same item beats me. (To be fair in the end they did accept that the screwed up and re-issued the order, thus making them not truly binary, just lacking genuine competence.)

    *They use other trading names to hide their rubbish nature.

    1. Graham Marsden

      Re: Already Gone Binary?

      I think you've mistaken this for the Daily Mail comments page...

      1. Richard Jones 1

        Re: Already Gone Binary?

        I guess you have never had to deal with the Putrid Guardian and its side kicks. Good luck if you ever need to deal with them or some of the other useless tossers from the menace of injustice.

        You might just find a reason to reconsider your comments, that is hopefully if you are able to deal with their mind numbing stupidity. Though given your comment, perhaps you already know them well through working there?

      2. Adam 52 Silver badge

        Re: Already Gone Binary?

        I don't understand the comments about the courts but can talk about the CPS.

        The CPS prosecutors are incentivised to win cases so they tend to charge as low as possible to make it easy to get a conviction. For example an assault causing light bruising and mental anguish will get charged as common assault and not ABH. This has got better now that CPS Direct make the decisions not the individual prosecutors, an example of a call centre succes story.

        On the original story, it does mean that almost every detected crime involves huge amounts of photocopying and faxing to the CPS to get a decision.

        "Innocents" being prosecuted is more down to the Police target and crime recording rules, and that pretty much everything is now criminal if someone else is offended by it. Another example being a child trips another in the playground causing a cut knee that the risk averse school calls an ambulance for. Technically it could/should be crimed as GBH with intent.

  3. Bc1609

    Oh wouldn't it be loverly

    Speaking as someone who works in the legal sector, I would absolutely love it if this came to pass. I don't know a single lawyer, court reporter or judge who doesn't think that an administrative overhaul is massively overdue. If you don't work with the system you won't realise just how much paperwork there is; and considering the scale of the operation it's incredible that more records aren't just lost - other public sector institutions (NHS, I'm looking at you) are terrible by comparison (though of course they may be working under different stresses). It's going to be really, really hard to do, though, and a big part of the problem is the kind of institutional cynicism and apathy that sinks in when looking at really big problems.

    If this is going to work, the two projects - the online court and the paperless court - must be separated. They are both incredibly ambitious and the failure of one should not damn the other.

    The paperless court must also start off very small. Pick a single, minor court (small claims would be a great example if you weren't going to shove the entire thing online, but maybe you can use it anyway), talk to its admins, watch it closely, and automate as much of that as possible. If it works, pick another, similar court and do that as well. Build templates and slowly, slowly move it out into other courts; remember that premature optimization is the root of all evil. Once people see how much time it saves they'll come aboard. Do not, for the love of God, try and do the whole system at once. It cannot be done. Having small cells of paperless-ness will of course be less efficient than if the entire system were paperless, but that's just the price you pay for having a working solution.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Oh wouldn't it be loverly

      I agree there are two strands to this: the paperless court and the digital court. Of which the paperless court is probably the more important and offers the greater benefits, also if you can't go paperless, the digital court idea is dead in the water. But to some extent if I understood the concept correctly, we already have a form of digital court today in the way we handle motoring offences: you have a choice admit to the offence and pay the quoted fine or go to court (in person) and make your case.

    2. Otto is a bear.

      Re: Oh wouldn't it be loverly

      The only problem I can foresee is that bureaucracy expands to fill the space available, and that all that will happen is you have to fill in more electronic forms than you ever thought possible to achieve the same end as one paper form accomplished in the first place. You have to remember how politicians and managers think: "Oh we need to know this, so lets make everyone do it and collect the results until they are bored and invent a new set of things to record, but we might need it in future and it only takes 5 minutes"

      1. Fr. Ted Crilly Bronze badge

        Re: Oh wouldn't it be loverly

        OHHH yes we are civil servants and twice a year we might need this semi useless detail. we need to have a CI team work on this and produce some laboured process to recover the detail. Tomorrow we might actually get some work done in between tib meetings and treking to and fro to the hub room, of course things wont be set in stone (when you hear this it is). Now be a good little Zek and do this for the next forever until the reason for the original task has been lost and doing the task has become a 'cargo cult' behaviour.

        My personal fave is keeping had copy standard letters 'to show they have been sent' did anybody seriously doubt it? its the receiving that counts, having copy proves nothing soooooooo benefit of doubt given to no purpose other than delay. rrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

    3. beerandbiscuits

      Re: Oh wouldn't it be loverly

      As someone else who works in the legal sector, I agree entirely with Bc1609, including that everyone I know in the legal profession wants reform of the current paper system. I would also be delighted if the court service's ability to lose important documents and in some cases whole files was removed. One of the things that most people probably don't appreciate is how much of the paper simply disappears - at a hearing I had last month, both sides had submitted numerous documents to the court for consideration at the hearing. None of the documents from either side reached the judge, leading to a hearing intended to be 30 minutes going on well over an hour.

      I do have concerns about how the online part is going to be implemented though. Presumably the software behind this will be written by the usual lowest bidders, and their understanding of the requirements of litigation is likely to be thin. Other public sector computer projects do not exactly inspire confidence.

      @Credas I think most lawyers are all too aware of the problems caused to litigants in person by the complexity of the system. I know from experience that plenty of lawyers find it hard enough to navigate through the Civil Procedure Rules, and LIPs are not likely to find it easier. I for one make sure that I provide as much information as possible to opponent LIPs on the process (it usually cuts costs for my client in the long run) but not all lawyers think the same way. I have my doubts though that these reforms will make it any easier for LIPs; claims will still have to go through the same procedures as now, just in a different way.

    4. Fr. Ted Crilly Bronze badge

      Re: Oh wouldn't it be loverly

      Hmm, well the view from inside suggests its going to be an all at once change ( who'da thunk it eh) which of course will be an overnight success (theres that cynicism and apathy again) with some more of the surprise surprise well the tiny pilot we ran at an out of the way court worked just fine (with experts and tech support spoon feeding the way along) which reminds me, how many times this week has the 'Store' been off line.

      Which reminds me, where does out-law get the idea the High Court is struggling to cope and we need to move more work out to the County Courts? Headquarters want to move the work out as despite the work load going up the resourcing goes down = delays, well thats a suprise eh what happened to responding to the customers expectations of service etc in the face of the international stature of the High Court blah blah blah.

  4. cantankerous swineherd

    are hmcts happy to pay the ransomware scum or will they let everything go to put.

    other news just in, fusion reactors will be up and running in 50 years time.

  5. jake Silver badge

    Ain't gonna happen, but ...

    ... good luck with the aftermath as citizens are ploughed under, Blighty!

    I mean that in the most sincere way possible.

    Beer, because methinks some will need it ...

  6. Zog_but_not_the_first


    Digital vellum?

    1. Bc1609

      Re: er...

      Nope, for digital vellum you'll want this.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: er...

        for digital vellum you'll want this.

        Well given the rate of progress and the problems with reading digital records from the recent past: whilst the media might last billions of years, I suspect it will be largely unreadable within 30 years and totally forgotten about in 50 years...

  7. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    CyberCourt (TM)

    "...- but this, as the report itself recognises, will require significant behavioural changes from practitioners if it is to come to fruition."

    Well, there's your problem... Two words: paperless office. I keep hearing that for three decades now, and counting...

  8. JaitcH

    Why not ask Ontario, Canada, for a copy of their software?

    Canada uses Common Law - the same as the UK - until bLIAR messed around with it.

    The Ontario software has been working for over a decade. But, of course, it means all those losers who worked on NHS software systems won't get to screw up again. And screw the taxpayers for yet more millions.

    Look at: < >

  9. Loud Speaker

    I Bet ...

    I bet 100 Bitcoins that this will be a multi-billion pound fiasco, ending in some foreign contractor being paid a couple of billion more to sod off, taking all the equipment worth having, and all the best staff, and leaving a toxic environment of colossal waste.

    And hundreds of pockets well lined.

    Even Africa's greatest tyrants could not dream of stealing money on this scale.

  10. PeterM42

    Another government-sponsored project.....

    ...about to cost £MEEELIONS before failing completely.

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