Online Courts

Recently, the use of online courts has been explored as a means of making the justice system more efficient and accessible. The goal is to improve access to justice and reduce the time and cost associated with traditional court processes.

In online courts, judges decide cases neither in a physical courtroom nor in a virtual hearing. Instead, evidence and arguments are submitted through an online platform. Judges then deliver their decisions not in open court but again via the online service. The process is asynchronous because the proceedings are not conducted in one sitting by video, audio, or real-time chat, so there is no hearing, virtual or otherwise.

His Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS), which is an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice, is responsible for the administration of the criminal, civil, and family courts and tribunals in England and Wales. It provides a range of services to support the functioning of the courts and tribunals, including court and tribunal listings, the provision of courtrooms, the management of jury service, and the handling of court fees and fines. It also oversees the use of technology in the justice system, such as the online court services mentioned earlier.

In recent years, HMCTS has been undergoing a significant modernisation program aimed at making the justice system more efficient, effective, and accessible. This program includes the introduction of digital case management systems, the development of online court services, and the refurbishment of court buildings. The goal of this modernisation program is to make the justice system more responsive to the needs of court users, improve access to justice, and reduce the time and cost associated with traditional court processes.

Currently, for criminal matters such as paying a court fine or making a plea for a traffic offence, and civil matters such as accessing the money claims court and making a claim for money can be done online. E-filing is available to legal professionals and members of the public for claims and appeals in the King’s Bench Division in the Royal Courts of Justice. For family cases such as domestic abuse, applying for a Family Law Act (domestic violence) injunctions for unrepresented applicants, and divorce including financial remedy can also be done online. Other family matters such as application for child arrangements including contact, access and custody can also be done digitally.

The introduction of online courts is part of a broader modernisation program aimed at making the justice system more responsive to the needs of court users. Nevertheless, it is important to note that not all cases are suitable for online resolution, and in some cases, physical court proceedings may still be necessary.
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