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  • Graham Ross

Justice Minister Looks to ODR to Help Rescue the British Civil Court System


Michael Gove, who in May 2015 was given the duel role within the UK justice system and government of Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, used his first formal speech, at the Legatum Institute in London, to criticise our "creaking and outdated" justice system which has, through the barriers of cost and excessive formality, become inaccessible to a large section of society and set out his proposals for the future. He noted that :-

" it astonishes businesses and individuals alike that they cannot easily file their case online. And it astounds them that they cannot be asked questions online and in plain English, rather than on paper and in opaque and circumlocutory jargon."

Avoiding the obvious criticism that it was his party in government which has previously been directly adding to the cost barrier to access by systematically taking down the Legal Aid system, he looked to the potential for Online Dispute Resolution playing a major part in a new justice system:-

"Thanks to pioneering work the judiciary have commissioned from reformers like Professor Richard Susskind, there is now a huge opportunity to take many of these disputes online. Questions which have previously required expensive court time and have often as a result been marked by acrimony, bitterness and depleted family resources can now be resolved more quickly, efficiently and harmoniously."

I am , of course, pleased, as a co-author of that work (see my blog on the Report) and following the already positive responses from the Master of the Rolls, the Ministry of Justice and from HM Courts and Tribunals Service, to read yet another positive response to our recommendations. Whilst I recognise that one driver to ODR in the eyes of Government will be the need to cut down on the cost of running the courts, I hope that other main driver to ODR, of increasing access to justice for all, is not overlooked and that the systems that are put in place not just provide fair and effective resolution but , importantly, are designed in such a way as to have the 'look and feel', in the eyes of the general public, of a fair, just and practical system for resolving disputes. (See or read Michael Gove's speech in full at the Legatum website.)

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