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High Court goes digital

As of 25 April 2017, Courts within the Chancery division of the High Court in London have switched so that all applications, forms and documents must be performed electronically. However, this does not currently apply to the High Courts outside of London.

The service, which operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, reduces the need for out of hours filings and streamlines the entire process of filings at court. Once registered, lawyers will have the ability to open files, pay the relevant court fees and upload necessary documents without needing to travel to court.

Applications which are precluded from forms of online payments, (e.g. winding up petitions) are an exception to the new system. The clerks who will deal with electronic filings are being trained to only reject filings if they do not meet court filing standards. In the case of other minor issues, applicants will be contacted with a view to ‘ironing out’ any potential issues to prevent rejection.

Despite the benefits of a more streamlined and efficient process, there are still some potential issues:

Timing

Although the courts have given the assurance that all important filings will be approved within 90 minutes, there are still some timing issues that should be noted:

  • The system allows for three levels of priority with increasing time scales. To ensure  your application is treated as urgent, you may still have to phone the court to ensure the clerks understand the urgency.
  • Although the service is available 24 hours a day, if you need a filing to be approved on the same day, you are required to submit that filing no later than 3 p.m. Once filings have been approved and payment accepted, the approval will be back dated to either of these times.

Downtime

The court plans on giving warning for scheduled maintenance or downtime for the system, and will provide an external email address to send documents to during this time. However, as with any new system it remains to be seen what contingency plans are in place in a case of unplanned downtime. If counter service is reduced and the filing system suddenly became unavailable, it raises the question as to what will happen in cases of urgent applications. The external email may not provide comfort in cases of pressing matters.

Impact

There are also questions regarding the impact of receiving electronically stamped documents. It would be fair to say that hard copy orders stamped boldly in red with a court seal are hard to ignore. As this is no longer the court’s intended output, with applicants now receiving email confirmations and electronically stamped forms, they may not demand the same degree of attention.

Posted on June 19, 2017

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