Will court system overhaul mean quicker, cheaper access to justice?

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A total of £3.936 million has been set aside in the Government Plan to fund modernisation of the Island’s court systems, with the aim of making them paperless.

It is hoped that the move will bring Jersey in line with other jurisdictions and improve access to justice for ordinary Islanders.

The Judicial Greffier, Advocate Adam Clarke, said that consultation work on the project was due to begin this year, with a view to introducing new publicly accessible systems next year.

‘We know that we will need a case management system. This is the core database that will contain information about each case filed with the courts,’ he said.

‘Beginning in 2021 we will introduce new websites to enable people involved in a case to access the data in the system. When someone has a legal problem that they want the court to consider – for example if someone owes them money – they will be able to file
the case with the court online.

‘This will be quicker and easier than writing letters or filling out paper forms. It will also be more efficient for the court.’

He added: ‘Most people will still want help from a lawyer, but the new system will make dealing with the court much easier for those that don’t. The new way of working will be more efficient for the law firms too.

‘Lawyers do most of their work on computer but currently have to send many documents to the court on paper, signed with pen and ink. Jersey will follow other places in using digital signatures.’ He added that a key aim of the project was to speed up the judicial process, which would in turn lower legal costs.

‘Everything is theoretical at the moment and we don’t know what the final system will look like, but one of the desires of improved access to justice is that the system is more expeditious,’ he said.

‘And if the system is more expeditious, then it will be cheaper for the end user also.’

Advocate Clarke said that the courts’ internal systems would also be modernised as part of the project.

‘Increasingly, technology will be used by the judge, Jurats and lawyers to display evidence on computer screens,’ he said.

‘This will be more efficient than people using ring binders full of paper, and make it easier for people to follow what’s going on.’

The updated systems are due to be be introduced in phases in the Civil Litigation, Petty Debts, Magistrate’s, Family, Youth, Royal and Appeal courts, as well as in the Jersey Employment and Discrimination Tribunal.

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