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Online Dispute Resolution and Access to Justice

Looking forward to giving a presentation to a Council of Europe hearing in Madrid on the 30th October as to the role of Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) in improving access to justice. Not to be confused with the European Union, the Council of Europe was the body set up by the governments of Europe in the aftermath of World War II to put something in place to learn the lessons from the spread of fascism and to help secure a more democratic foundation for the Europe of the future. Key was the creation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Article 6 gives every citizen a right , for the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law. The Convention was drawn up some 40 years after Lord Justice Matthews made the well known remark "Justice is open to all like the Ritz Hotel". The objective was to replace the 'Ritz' with 'Travelodge'. Increasingly, however, and despite the Convention, the cost of court action, and , in the UK, the almost total destruction of the Legal Aid system for civil disputes, has made access to the law even more remote for large sections of society. Can ODR help reverse this effect and make the courts more accessible?> On the other hand, do extra-judical systems for ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) whether or not driven by technology , if made mandatory, reduce access to the courts? The latter is an issue for the law makers but, as to the former, there is no doubt that with ODR expanding and being developed for use by the courts, the 24/7 availability of low cost, intuitive and simple to operate forms of resolution from your nearest laptop, tablet or smart phone, will deliver the greatest improvement on Article 6 rights than any other development.

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