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The HMCTS reforms, Court increases and the advent of the Online Court are threatening the existence of the Courts and Tribunals.

​The rise of an online justice system could put judges out of business in the wake of the march of the “robotic” court, a senior judge has warned.

Lord Justice Fulford also said that the advent of computers might mean less transparency and open justice as more disputes are settled online.

However, he insisted that the judiciary would fight to keep courts open to public scrutiny as the digital revolution, which is fully backed by judges, takes effect. “The judiciary is fiercely committed to the principle of open justice,” he told the annual Bond Solon expert witness conference in London. “Greater digitisation offers both challenges and opportunities in this field in that technology enables more data to be gathered that can be made accessible than historically has been the case,” said the Court of Appeal judge, who is also the senior presiding judge for England and Wales.

“We will need to find ways in which the public can gain access to telephone, video and online hearings. I am determined that we will not throw a cloak of secrecy over our new digital, computer-aided processes, but this is going to need imagination and commitment.”

Fulford, who is involved in implementing computerisation across the justice system, insisted that even with digitisation, “every decision about substantive rights will be made by a judge. The main elements of conciliation will be conducted by a human being.” He added, however: “Perhaps all of us professionals who rather enjoy our jobs need to hope that the new digital systems – those clever algorithms – do not render us entirely redundant. We may ultimately be fighting the rise of the robotic court.”

It isn’t just in the Civil Courts where there may be less litigation. The number of workers taking claims of unfair dismissal or discrimination to employment tribunals has slumped since charges came into force, a study has revealed.

Unfair dismissal claims have fallen by 73% and there have been huge reductions in discrimination cases on grounds of sex (71%), race (58%) and disability (54%), since charges of up to £1,200 were introduced, the Trades Union Congress said.
Steep court fee rises are tax on justice, say MPs

The number of workers taking claims to a tribunal averaged 16,000 a month in 2012-13, but that figure fell to 7,000 in the past year, the TUC said.

The TUC is urging the abolition of the fees which at up to £1,200, even if you’re on the minimum wage – are pricing out thousands each month from pursuing cases.

So what is the alternative? We would say mediation at an early stage can cut out Court costs and legal fees.

Peter Causton

CTSI Certified Alternative Dispute Resolution Provider under the ADR Regulations 2015. Mediation Services

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