Digitised and paperless Family Court within four years
By Amanda Erskine
Speaking to the Family Law Bar Association last month, the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, has said that an “entirely digitised and paperless (family) court” can and must be achieved in the next four years. He admits that the court “still has a long way to go to the entirely digitised and paperless court of the future, though this is – must be – a vision not of some distant future but of what has to be, and I believe can be, achieved over the next four years of the Courts Modernisation Programme … It is a very tight timetable. It is a visionary programme of ambition unprecedented anywhere in the world. But it can be done; it must be done; it will be done.”
Currently there are a number of courts already accepting some documentation and applications by email and a fully digitised system may go a long way to avoid wasted hearings or lost paper files when matters are transferred between courts. However, email is not 100% secure and practitioners as well as other users of the court need to have this at the forefront of their minds before deciding to file court documentation via email.
There are also a number of rules which need to be complied with when filing anything with the court via email and as most applications to the court attract a court fee, consideration needs to be given as to how this will be paid to the court. The president also said that the digital revolution would enable a radical revision of both court forms and court orders, which at the moment can appear daunting to court users who are unrepresented. Only time will tell how long it actually takes to have a fully digitised Family Court.
Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.