Are we entering the iPhone courtroom era?

Calls for the modernisation of the justice system across England and Wales have been answered recently by Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service, proposing developments that will pull us to embrace modern technological advances.

Speaking this summer at the ‘Modernising Justice Through Technology, Innovation and Efficiency’ Conference at the QEII Centre in London, Kevin Gallagher (Digital Director at HM Courts & Tribunal Service) reiterated that the legal system needed to make the best use of technology, to ensure justice is accessible to all. One of the key proposals that is under consideration is that of video hearings and ‘iPhone evidence’ being used in lower value cases, rather than engage with court proceedings. While this also promotes a more accessible nature to dispute resolution, it also offers a far more financially viable alternative to court cases. Dependent on the case, courts and tribunals can reach ridiculous amounts for minor and trifling issues that still require legal settlement – embracing new technologies could spell the end of this costly mechanism and improve measures vastly.

Examples were given of cases such as land disputes and basic claims for uncontested probate. Such cases would be potentially seen through a video hearing, where photographic evidence could be submitted through a smartphone, as well as all of the pre-trial information being completed online. This would be designed to assist the current court structure and according to Ofcom, with over 80% of individuals between the ages of 16-55 now owning a smartphone, this would be used as an option in low-profile cases, whereas it is understood there would be a claimable amount above which a court hearing would be necessary. There is the worry that some analysts have considered, in that it may be over-simplifying the court procedure and leading to further wasted time on claims, as well as a potentially high-cost network infrastructure to create. Potentially, evidence that is submitted through this system risks the possibility of being fraudulent, or simply that is not of a sufficient quality to be used within a case.

Other aspects discussed at the conference included planned changes to simplify probate services, including an online payment system, case tracking and management function, as well as cases involving child support and social security to begin their tribunal case procedures online. Across four key areas of probate, divorce, social security and online courts, the Government plans to carry out these initial reform proposals to develop the modern technologies outlined to promote a more accessible, cost-effective justice system.

Today's Wills and Probate