Falling at the First Hurdle? A Critical Analysis of HMCTS’s Implementation of Stage 1 of the Online Court


  • David Sixsmith University of Sunderland


This article critically examines the progress which has been made to date by HMCTS in implementing Stage 1 of the Online Court. Initially proposed by Lord Briggs as part of the Civil Court Structure Review, Stage 1 was intended to act as a virtual triage system for low value and non-complex civil claims. Its premise was based around a court user completing a series of ‘decision tree’ questions, which would in turn allow the system to provide them with information about the relevant legal framework relating to their dispute and allow them to create a properly pleaded claim or defence for submission to court. This would all be done without the need for legal representation. This article discusses the role Stage 1 is designed to play within the Online Court and the historical policy factors which have combined to render the successful implementation of Stage 1 so critical to the future of access to civil justice and the public trust in accessibility of civil justice. It questions the progress HMCTS have made to date on its design and for comparative purposes discusses the stages involved in the development of the Solutions Explorer within the Civil Resolution Tribunal in British Columbia on which Stage 1 of the Online Court is heavily based. The article concludes by offering recommendations to HMCTS on how the design, development and implementation of Stage 1 can still be achieved successfully.