The House of Lords wants to limit the government’s power to set the rules of the Online Court. Peers think the government’s proposals, set out in a new parliamentary Bill, will give it too much power over online justice. They want the Lord Chief Justice to have a greater say in setting and approving the Online Court’s procedures.

The Courts and Tribunals (Online Procedure) Bill will establish an Online Procedure Rules Committee (OPRC) which will set the rules for civil, tribunal and family proceedings heard in the Online Court.

The government wants a small committee, with most members appointed by a minister. It claimed that a small OPRC could be given the ability to increase the membership when they considered different topics. That “allows them access to a greater spread of expertise and to ensure the rules are made by those who have an understanding of how they are most suited to the user,” said Lord Keen for the government.

But peers have objected to the proposals.  Speaking in the H

ouse of Lords former Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge expressed concern that the Lord Chancellor was being handed exceptionally broad powers.  What in the end we have

 here is the ability…. of the Executive to decide how litigation shall be conducted. That is what is objectionable about it,” he said.

Lord Judge introduced an amendment to the Bill, which would have the effect of giving the Lord Chief Justice greater power over the scope of the new court.  The amendment was passed by 226 members to 182.The Bill has now completed its progress through the House of Lords and is being considered by the House of Commons.  Its progress can be tracked on the Parliament website.

The government’s bill marks another important step forward in moving towards more online justice, said James Burgoyne, Director – Claims & Tec

hnical, Brunel Professions. “Pilot schemes have identified some issues with video hearings, so it is important that the Online Court’s procedures are carefully considered to give users’ fast and fair access to justice.”

Several pilots of video court hearings are already underway, see Brunel News November 2018, January 2019 and March 2019.

The Courts and Tribunals (Online Procedure) Bill has been published on the government website.  Reports about the Bill’s progress have been published by the Law Society Gazette, Legal Futures and Clyde&Co.

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