Speech by the Master of the Rolls: Reliable data and technology – the direction of travel for Civil Justice

CivilMaster of the RollsSpeeches

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1. Many thanks for inviting me to contribute to this important discussion.

2. It will be no secret that I am enthusiastic about the introduction of an integrated online civil justice system, which will be accessible to all, and will reduce the expenses and delays of the present paper-based approach.

3. I am also sufficiently realistic to understand that, notwithstanding the great strides that have already been made within the HMCTS reform programme, the ultimate goal is still some distance away. But that does not mean that we cannot or should not be following a direction of travel that is aimed at creating the civil justice system of the 21st century that will give consumers and businesses confidence about the future.

4. What, in my view, is too often ignored is that achieving this objective will have extremely beneficial consequences for the UK economy. An efficient debt recovery system can be the difference between solvency and insolvency for literally thousands of consumers and SMEs alike. Moreover, this is an opportunity for the UK to lead the world in showing how a mature first world justice system can make full and effective use of technology to allow legal rights to be cheaply and quickly vindicated.

5. Let me try to put some flesh on the bones. In this talk, I want to consider first the question of good data. This is important because the scale of civil justice claims is often not appreciated, and the profile of those claims does not remain constant. I include all claims – from those determined on eBay at one end to those determined in Business and Property Courts or in commercial arbitration at the other end. Secondly, I want to say something about the technology that is being and will be used to achieve these objectives, and finally I will come to the nature of what I see as the ultimate vision.