Lord Dyson has praised a French online dispute resolution (ODR) website for opening up justice and said he hoped “something similar” would be created in this country.
The Master of the Rolls said www.demanderjustice.com provided an e-filing service for litigants-in-person, which enabled people to resolve their disputes through ODR, but if that did not succeed, it could create and file electronically the court documents necessary to start a claim.
In a speech to a Law Society Magna Carta event this week, Lord Dyson said: “The system in France encourages more than simply greater efficiency. It allows innovation.”
Referring to the report of the Civil Justice Council working party on ODR, chaired by Professor Richard Susskind, Lord Dyson said it “convincingly demonstrates” one of the ways the justice system should develop.
“That the starting point for the French website is an informal means of ADR cannot but be a good thing. It is right that it is backed-up with access to the court if ADR does not lead to a resolution of the dispute.”
However, Lord Dyson warned that in developing ODR, the need for open justice must be kept in mind.
“There is an obvious tension between the preservation of this fundamental principle and the promotion of virtual, internet-based, systems and processes that enhance efficiency and cost-savings.
“It is one thing to conduct mediations out of the public gaze. This is already done and there can be no objection to it. But we should not allow advances in technology to lead to secret court determination of disputes.”
Lord Dyson went on to praise Scotland for its civil procedure rule simplification project, led by the Scottish Civil Justice Council.
“We should not overlook the fact that a high proportion of litigants who use our civil courts are self-represented,” he said. “To say that for the majority of them the CPR are daunting must be an understatement.”
The Master of the Rolls said there were further lessons to be learnt from Brazil, where a new civil procedure code, coming into force in December, would allow parties to modify the rules.
“It is worth thinking about whether we should adopt such a provision here so as to permit parties, with the court’s consent, to agree to opt out of certain aspects of procedure to enable their claim to be dealt with more speedily.”