Lord Justice Briggs, who recommended a new online court for dealing with all monetary claims up to £25,000, was speaking in a panel session called the ‘changing landscape’ at a recent annual Bar Conference in London.
He said £25,000 was a first ambition and that ‘if it works it could grow’, adding that the sky is the limit.
Despite the courts initially being billed as needing ‘minimum assistance from lawyers’, Briggs LJ acknowledged that there would be instances were the input from lawyers would be useful. The Judge commented that, for example, there could be a ‘decisive issue of fact’ that turns on oral evidence where the answer was not apparent from documents. In addition, he said that there are ‘lots of cases’ where this is true and where ‘at least that part of the trial should be dealt with face to face'.
The online court will include a three-stage process: (1) an automated triage to decide on the merits of a case; (2) an arbitration handled by an assigned case officer and (3) a judicial decision if the case cannot be resolved any other way.
When he launched the report, Briggs LJ acknowledged that some would be ‘critical, sceptical or fearful’ of the concept, with the concern that users will be denied justice, the exclusion of lawyers will affect the outcome, or that £25,000 is too high a threshold.
The £25,000 threshold in a new online court for dealing with monetary claims could be increased if it proves to be a success, its creator Lord Justice Briggs has hinted. Briggs LJ, whose final report on the future of civil courts was published in July 2016, said it was a case of ‘suck it and see’ and that ‘if it works it [the maximum level for claims] could grow’.