Stringent protections are paramount when justice is delivered through technology, cautions Law Society

Legislation intended to pave the way for online justice – including in criminal trials – will be carefully scrutinised by the Law Society of England and Wales to ensure the most stringent protections are put in place.
Responding to the publication of the Courts and Tribunals (Judiciary and Functions of Staff) Bill, Law Society president Joe Egan said: “Putting technology to work to help deliver justice is reasonable so long as there are appropriate safeguards.
“We are likely to press for safety measures to be included within some areas of the legislation.
“In particular, we believe online indications of a plea in criminal cases should only be permissible where the defendant is represented.
“It’s one thing to be able to enter a plea and be convicted online in very minor cases, as you currently can by post. But we will want to see the most stringent protections against ‘mission creep’ so that online justice is not used for more serious criminal offences.
“This bill includes a number of measures which will be significant in advancing Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service’s (HMCTS) reform programme, and will give Parliament its first opportunity to engage in detail with the programme.
“A modernised court service and efficient use of technology could benefit all court users, and will hopefully allow for court staff to deal with ‘routine matters’ and free up judges’ time to concentrate on other matters.
“Technology has an important role to play, but it is not the silver bullet. A recent National Audit Office report has highlighted that this programme has significant funding gaps. We are aware that facilities are not yet in place across all courts.
“We hope that, with this bill, more funding can be injected into the court modernisation programme to ensure it is sustainable.”

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