06 December 2018

Canada's online court hits the road

Canada's online court prepares next step by taking over majority of road traffic accident claims next April, as other jurisdictions watch on.

The British Columbia online court is seen as a model for the options to handle many civil justice processes online, including using smartphones and apps. The court is being observed by many jurisdictions, from England to Australia.

Not designed for lawyers

Speaking at the inaugural Sir Brian Neill Lecture for the Society for Computers and Law as part of the International Forum of Online Courts organised by the society and HMCTS, Shannon Salter, chair of the Civil Resolution Tribunal, ‘we are now about to assume jurisdiction over a large part of the justice system in British Columbia.’ Ms Salter explained the Civil Resolution Tribunal has handled disputes over sums less than $5,000 since June 2017, with 94 per cent settled before they come before a judge. Access to justice for civil claims have been redesigned around users with a 12-year-old’s, rather than a lawyer’s, reading age. At the first stage in the process, users are offered access to an online tool called a 'situation explorer', and then human mediation. Only 6% of claims get to tribunal members.

Low income users

Ms Salter said, 'people on low incomes will not have a laptop or tablet computer, but will almost certainly have a smartphone.’ President of the Society for Computers and Law, and a renowned advocate of online corts, Professor Richard Susskind agreed, ‘more people in our world now have access to the internet than access to justice.’ He added, ‘online courts, in my view, are the most promising way of ensuring that many more people are able to understand and enforce their legal rights.