Digitisation of the court system – what will it look like?
The government has announced that it intends to invest at least one million pounds into modernising the court system for dealing with possession claims.
Currently, it can take approximately 4-6 months for a claim to run from start to finish and for a landlord to regain possession of their property.
The government has realised that this is not efficient enough, especially with significant changes to the law expected by 2025, including completely scrapping Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions.
At present, it is hard to say exactly what measures will be put in place as part of this digitisation. There is no clear timetable for implementation or statements on how fast claims are due to be dealt with once introduced.
However, if we look at how other UK courts have been reformed during COVID-19, we may get a sense of what the future could bring.
For example, the Supreme Court has spent a few years on a digital transformation journey.
The court decided to leave geographical restrictions and arduous paper admin behind, instead looking toward a more flexible and modern approach. The court now uses cloud-based solutions which allow court staff to work from anywhere and share confidential information over a secure network.
Other UK courts have also embraced digital change. It has been reported that the High court was able to deal with almost 80% of ordinary business during the pandemic through remote hearings. The use of virtual courts has continued and now almost 3000 virtual courts are taking place a month.
The key point here seems to be that swapping paperwork for electronic files and physical courtrooms for virtual courtrooms can greatly improve court efficiency. Therefore, digitisation of county courts dealing with possession claims may also involve investing heavily in such frameworks.
Currently, it is possible for solicitors to file claims to the court electronically. However, it is not possible for all claims. Also, it is rare for a county court hearing to be virtual, despite the fact that most hearings are a mere 10 or 15 minutes long.
As such, if more was invested in making claims online and virtual hearings, claims could be dealt with much quicker, saving unnecessary paperwork and time attending court.
Therefore, if we base predictions on reform in other courts, we can assume that county courts will follow suit. Yet, it cannot be said with confidence until the government shares more information on the steps it is going to take.
This content was exclusively prepared in collaboration with The Lettings Hub by Leo Aiken from award-winning Woodstock Legal Services.
Woodstock Legal Services are specialists in legal advice and solutions for the Private Rental Sector.
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