Professor Dame Hazel Genn delivers annual Birkenhead lecture at Gray’s Inn
20 October 2017
Professor Genn, Director of UCL Centre for Access to Justice, delivered the annual Birkenhead lecture on ‘Online Courts and the Future of Justice’ on 16 October 2017 at Gray's Inn
About the lecture
Courts and tribunals are on the brink of radical change. In a joint vision statement in 2016 heralding this transformation, the Lord Chief Justice and Senior President of Tribunals promised to harness the power of technology to provide a justice system that would work ‘even better’ for judges, professionals and litigants.
The vision involves more than banishing paper. It includes embedding online dispute resolution (ODR) and online final determination into court and tribunal processes.
The programme is being taken forward at a rapid rate, with HMCTS already piloting online processes and virtual hearings. Many find the pace of change exhilarating and, in a recent speech, the Master of the Rolls hailed the opportunity to build a new civil court – digital by default and design – that is ‘more capable of securing equal justice for all’.
This lecture reflects on the potential of technology for improving access to justice, the challenge of online courts to the idea of justice being performed in public, and to the common law adversarial tradition of synchronous adjudicative procedures.
As we move inexorably forward, there are questions to be asked about how we manage these fundamental shifts in process; which cases we deem to be worthy of a physical public hearing and why; how we prepare litigants and the profession for the world of online dispute resolution; how we train judges for online working, and the attractiveness of life as a cyber judge.