Lord Justice Jackson published The Review of Civil Litigation Costs in January 2010, with the primary goal of improving court information technology (IT). He regarded the court system in 2010 as a patchwork of incompatible IT systems, in need of a new, holistic electronic system that would save time and costs. Lord Justice Jackson's report set out measures to significantly reduce the "paper mountains" at courts and free staff to concentrate on court administration.
Six years later, the implementation of Lord Justice Jackson's recommendations is gaining momentum. Following the success of e-filing under Practice Direction 51O, the HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) confirmed that, from 25 April 2017, the courts in the Rolls Building only (which includes the Technology and Construction Court) will no longer accept paper documents for filing. That is to say, all issuing and filing of court documents in any of the jurisdictions of the Rolls Building will instead be made through the electronic filing (e-filing) system (referred to as the "CE-File system").
For firms like Dentons, this transition will be reasonably straightforward to accommodate. Dentons' lawyers are accustomed to communicating with the courts online and are receiving additional training to ensure they are familiar with the new process before 25 April 2017. As with all new systems, various issues are likely to be encountered in the early stages. Possible issues that may arise are set out below.
- There is no option to select adjudication enforcement proceedings when starting the e-filing process. We anticipate that we will need to prepare a Part 7 Claim Form and then select the option to "add associated filings" before submitting the Claim Form.
- The court fee is calculated automatically as part of the process. At present, it appears that the simplest way to pay the relevant fee is by credit card. There is, however, the option to pay by account with the court.
From Dentons' clients' perspective, very little will appear to change in those cases where Dentons is handling the day-to-day running of the litigation. The switch might cause more problems for individual litigants with limited access to the necessary IT. HMCTS is taking steps to avoid such problems by providing public terminals and scanners in the court's reception area. There will also be court staff available to assist with any technical difficulties.
The new system is a positive step forward, removing logistical issues that should no longer occur with the current state of technology. For example, the new system means that there is no longer the need to issue documents in person in London before 4.30pm. Proceedings can be commenced from anywhere in the UK (or the world) and can be issued after business hours. This will be especially useful when issuing a protective writ. Ultimately, the system will reduce the amount of paper and printing required – a positive change that will reduce costs and administration time for the courts, litigants and parties.