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School of Law

Report calls for radical overhaul of how the court service handles low value claims

A new system of online justice would revolutionise the court system of England and Wales, according to a report from the Civil Justice Council’s Online Dispute Resolution Advisory Group. The group includes Julia Hörnle, Professor in Internet Law at QMUL.


The report, published today, calls for radical change to how the court system handles low value civil claims, and describes the status quo as “too costly, too slow, and too complex”.

To remedy these problems, the Civil Justice Council proposes that HM Courts and Tribunals Service should establish a new, internet-based court service, known as HM Online Court (HMOC). The online court would involve a supplementary service, which would sit next to the traditional court service, to provide online dispute resolution for small claims.

Speaking about the report, Professor Hörnle - one of the leading experts in Online Dispute Resolution in the UK – called for widespread support for this “common-sense proposal”.

“Online Justice for the internet generation is a logical step and accords with users’ expectations and that online justice will lead to greater access to justice as it reduces the bars to accessing expertise in law and advocacy.”

Professor Hörnle added:

“Crucially, HM Online Court will have the same authority and ‘gravitas’ as a traditional court, despite the fact that hearings will not take place in a physical court building. The expertise and high standing of independent facilitators and judges will guarantee the same quality of justice as in a traditional court setting.”

According to the ODR advisory group: “a primary role of the state in a liberal democracy is to provide an affordable and accessible public dispute resolution service with an independent Judiciary at its core (…) we maintain that the health of a legal system and the rule of law itself depend on the existence and widespread use of a public court system that applies, clarifies and develops the law through decisions that are authoritative, enforceable, final and can set precedent. However this policy decision does not preclude the possibility of judges providing this service across the Internet. Nor does it limit the role of the courts to dispute resolution.”

The Report was launched on Monday 16 February by the Rt Hon Lord Dyson, Master of the Rolls and Chairman of the Civil Justice Council. The group was led by Professor Richard Susskind OBE, Chair of Civil Justice Council’s Online Resolution Group and IT Adviser to the Lord Chief Justice.

About Julia Hörnle

Julia Hörnle joined Queen Mary University of London in 2000 and is a Professor of Internet Law. She is an expert in internet law, focusing on regulatory issues, consumer protection, jurisdiction and online dispute resolution. Julia teaches Cyberspace Law for the LLM and LLB and courses in the Computer and Communications Law offering, including an Online Dispute Resolution simulation.

She has managed a team of researchers in several publicly funded research projects, for the Information Commissioner, the European Commission, the Chinese Government and the UK Government (OFT and BIS) on Online Arbitration and on the ADR Landscape in the UK.

She has published widely in the ODR field, including an acclaimed book on Online Dispute Resolution: Cross Border Internet Dispute Resolution (Cambridge University Press 2009).



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