Waikato University senior lecturer calls for online justice

by Sol Dolor28 Oct 2016
A senior academic is calling on New Zealand to create an online court system to give more people access to a legal system that is more efficient.
Les Arthur, a Waikato University senior lecturer who teaches Legal Ethics, Mediation, Insurance Law and Advanced Civil Litigation, wants the government to follow the UK’s lead where a senior justice official suggested recently after an inquiry that an online court system be established.
Apart from forming an online court, the disputes specialist also proposes that the budget for the Disputes Tribunal be increased, BizEDGE reported.
To be more efficient, the online courts could handle disputes that are not large enough to warrant an appearance in the District Court, a suggestion similar to those made in England.
“There are lots of low-value disputes that range around $50,000 which are not worth going to the district court so there’s a large gap. The ceiling could be increased to $50,000 and the legal rights of parties could be protected without the assistance of lawyers through the development of an online court," Arthur told BizEDGE.
The Disputes Tribunal handles matters that are worth less than $20,000 provided all parties participate.
In a 300-page report after a year’s worth of analysis that started in July last year, UK Court of Appeal Judge Lord Justice Briggs suggested the establishment of an online court that lets people resolve disputes worth less than £25,000 (about $42,700).
The online court would rarely involve lawyers, if at all, and will utilise the latest technologies which are currently being used in other countries in Europe and in Canada to handle disputes online.
Read: UK judge proposes online court sans lawyers
The systems being used around the world vary but they commonly analyse disputes, draw up needed documents and explain concepts in a way all parties understand. These systems have been developed from dispute resolution systems deployed by giant online retailers like Amazon.
From the online system, appeals could be electronically sent to the District Court, Arthur said.
“Appeals from the Tribunal, which should include errors of law, could be submitted electronically to a District Court Judge and in some circumstances a decision could be made on the documents. The online court system would resolve common disagreements over issues such as goods, services and property damage more quickly and easily,” Arthur, a former barrister and solicitor of the High Court, said.
For the online court system to reach the most possible users, however, the academic suggests that agencies and organisations be involved.
“An essential element of the development of an Online Tribunal would be the availability of voluntary agencies such as Community Law Centres or Citizens Advice Bureau nationwide to assist the computer challenged,” Arthur, who previously had a private practice and also served as corporate counsel for Vero Insurance, said.

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