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From Remote Hearing to No Hearing…. A step too far?

From Remote Hearing to No Hearing…. A step too far?

From Remote Hearing to No Hearing…. A step too far?

As part of the increased move towards online courts, it was recently announced that a Pilot scheme for determining small claims without a hearing would operate in a limited number of Courts between June 2022 and June 2024.

For now, the Pilot scheme applies to small claims cases where there is no, or no significant, factual dispute.  Cases such as flight delay compensation claims, parking tickets and disputes where the value is £1,000 or less are deemed to be suitable.

Up until now the decision not to attend a final hearing has been that of one or more of the parties. Now, under the Pilot scheme, the Judge will be able to decide that the case is suitable for determination without a hearing – in essence telling the parties not to attend.

The parties will have the right to object to the case being dealt with “on paper” without a hearing when the Court notifies them in advance.  And if all goes wrong, there is the ability for a party to request permission to appeal once the parties have been notified of the determination which must be supported by brief reasons.  But in practice will this satisfy the party who wants his/her/their day in court in order to have their case vindicated?

The Common Law system in England and Wales is based upon the need for a hearing.  So, are these new proposals under the Pilot scheme a step too far?  Will we see the Pilot scheme govern the way forward for the future of small claims and possibly other claims where there is limited factual dispute?  Experience tells us that Pilot schemes often take on wider application.

In its defence the Pilot Scheme should, in theory, help to reduce costs and improve the efficiency of dispensing justice in small claims by reducing the burden on Court diaries, Court staff and the parties. But only time will tell.

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If you have any questions about the topics covered in this article, speak to one of our specialist dispute resolution lawyers on 0330 175 7621 or email commercialdisputes@ibblaw.co.uk.