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Jean-Yves Gilg

Editor, Solicitors Journal

Stressful civil justice system needs technological fix, says public

Stressful civil justice system needs technological fix, says public


Civil costs would also come tumbling down if dispute resolution was to move online

The UK justice system is unfair, expensive, stressful, and could be fixed if technology was to step in, say Britons.

A survey conducted by online dispute resolution service ClaimItOnline revealed that nearly half (46.7 per cent) of Britons believed the UK justice system was unfair while almost two-thirds (63 per cent) thought it was letting vulnerable people down.

In addition, four in every five respondents felt the system was too expensive and cases took too long to be concluded.

ClaimItOnline founder, James Martin, remarked that the civil justice system was failing 'most people.'

'It's excruciatingly slow, stressful, and complicated, and legal fees can be seven times the amount people are trying to claim,' commented the dispute resolution solicitor at Berwins.

Yet the solution may be nearer for the three-quarters of those surveyed who agreed that an increase in technology for courtrooms - including moving how to make a claim via an online method - would help streamline the court process and help lower costs.

Martin's online dispute resolution service ClaimItOnline, for example, quotes resolving a typical £30,000 court claim for just £1,799 online by using virtual arbitration, mediation or fixed-price legal services - around 70 per cent of respondents who had been to court and were surveyed were not aware of mediation prior to their case, and 46 per cent were unaware of arbitration. Over half of respondents who were unaware of these services said they would have used them instead of small claims court if they had known.

The one-year-old website also states it can resolve matters approximately 50 weeks sooner than the average time taken through the court service.

In addition, online dispute resolution is already being considered by the courts. Lord Justice Briggs said earlier this year that an online court for litigants was a 'practicable proposition' and revealed last week that any new system could resolve straightforward claims of up to £10,000 in the civil court and involve a 'very limited element of fixed costs… to encourage litigants to get early bespoke advice' by a qualified lawyer. Briggs LJ is expected to finalise his report by July.

The latest findings highlight ongoing concerns that the justice system is unable to support the public in light of government cuts.

In April, over half of respondents to an Access2Justice survey said that government plans to limit compensation for injuries in road traffic accidents were 'unfair'; meanwhile, a report recently published by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) revealed that the criminal justice system was close to breaking point.