New committee created to help advise participants in court cases
The Ministry of Justice has created a committee of judges and experts to help create rules to govern the running of online court proceedings.
The Online Procedure Rule Committee has been established to “oversee the development of rules for online proceedings across the civil, family and tribunals jurisdictions, as well as data and behavioural standards for online dispute resolution before proceedings are brought to a court or tribunal”.
The aim of these rules – and the work of the committee more widely – is to “help guide judges, legal representatives and litigants through online court procedures”.
Half of the committee’s six-member line-up will be comprised of judges representing the respective heads of the family, tribunal, and civil justice systems: Andrew McFarlane; Keith Lindblom; and Geoffrey Vos – who will serve as chair.
The other half features three sector experts: Brett Dixon, the secretary of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers; a research scholar focused on access to justice and UN human rights advisor; and Gerard Boyers, director digital strategy at Deloitte.
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Justice minister Lord Bellamy said: “It is vital that digital court processes are governed by rules more suited to evolving technologies, and the creation of this committee secures the government’s longstanding commitment to leading the way in making this a reality. The work of the OPRC will help make online court and tribunal services more accessible, encouraging more people to resolve their disputes early and helping them get the timely and specialist support they need.”
The creation of the committee comes as HM Courts and Tribunals plans a multimillion-pound programme to improve its core platform for conducting online hearings, and expand its use across the justice system. The Video Hearings Service was launched in 2020 to enable courts to massively ramp up the number of cases heard remotely, as restrictions on social contact prevented in-person hearings.
The system has already been used to deliver more than 7,000 hearings across over 700 organisations and HMCTS is planning to improve the platform in support of its aim to deploy the product throughout the network of courts across England and Wales – replacing any other tools that might be in use at individual locations.
Chair Vos said he was “delighted to be leading the new Online Procedure Rule Committee”.
“The OPRC will oversee the creation of an end-to-end digital journey allowing people to resolve their disputes more quickly and efficiently,” he added. “It will provide the necessary governance for the digital justice system as it develops.”