Judges log on for first Internet cases

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The Independent Online

Judges are to hear cases on the internet, with the parties submitting evidence by e-mail and receiving the verdict online.

Judges are to hear cases on the internet, with the parties submitting evidence by e-mail and receiving the verdict online.

The move is part of the Government's vision of a computer and video-based justice system which was unveiled yesterday by ministers from the Lord Chancellor's Department.

A pilot scheme allowing judges to decide simple cases via the internet is due to start in Preston, Lancashire, in the autumn.

If the scheme is successful millions of pounds will be saved in court time while hundreds of claimants will no longer have to travel to court. Courts will also be able to sit outside normal hours. In a consultation paper entitled civil.justice.2000, ministers said that in 15 years there would be no need to attend court for small-cost cases.

Yesterday, David Lock, minister at the Lord Chancellor's Department, said: "Our present justice system is too litigation and too court based."

Developments in video conferencing will also free both civil and criminal cases of reliance on the courtroom, the Government said.

Pilot schemes already allow magistrates to hear remand cases without the need for the prisoner to leave the jail. A similar scheme is in operation at Manchester prison for cases involving inmates in the Crown Court, and in the Royal Courts of Justice for civil hearings.