On 4 April 2019 new rules came into effect for the removal of court bundles in what’s now earned the name of “The Great Bundle Takeaway Debacle.” The debate itself is notable for how little of it is focused on a digital solution. While these issues persist in the Civil courts, its worth reminding ourselves that as the Crown Courts use digital bundles almost exclusively, among other benefits there is no need to remove bundles after a hearing.
The release, the wording of which can be found here, stated that legal representatives are responsible for the removal of all bundles after the conclusion of a trial, including those of the courts. Clarification by way of a joint notice, endorsed by the Bar Council and the Law Society, from HMCTS then said that court bundles are actually not the responsibility of legal professionals; however, they are still obliged to remove their own bundles after hearings.
There are 1200 judges in England & Wales who use digital evidence bundles on a daily basis in the Crown Courts and many Family Courts. Since implementation, the HMCTS Digital Case System CaseLines has already saved more than 100 million sheets of paper and a lot of trouble when it comes to assembling, transporting and removing bundles. It’s time the debate over bundles in Civil and family courts included digital solutions. Paper has now almost entirely been removed from the criminal process, as well as increasingly in the family courts, with judges embracing the technology.
The Crown Courts have one main presenter of cases: The Crown Prosecution Service. In the Family and Civil Courts there are many different applicants, either individuals through their representatives or bodies such as Local Authorities. The solution is therefore for applicant parties to call for a digital approach. Judges prefer to use digital bundles. They can be accessed anywhere, including from home, and they give judges far more time with the case materials as they do not need to be transported. Civil lawyers should agree between parties and ask judges to have their cases heard using digital bundles. Lawyers who do so aren’t likely to face resistance, but in fact will be pushing against an open door.
CaseLines has also resulted in shorter hearings so lawyers spend less time in court and reduces the number of adjournments meaning a lower number of hearings per case. One early benefit the UK Crown Courts experienced was a 50% reduction in hearings because earlier access to evidence meant more early guilty pleas. In the family courts HHJ Peter Nathan told us he felt it was “a “huge improvement on paper bundles.” When discussing a 12-day case he was working on, “it must be more than 1,000 pages. I can’t take that home.”
Family courts across England and Wales can also now use the systems after initiatives were implemented by their local authorities. Andrea Kilby, Business Development Manager at Orbis, assisted Guildford Family Court when they went digital. Traditionally, Orbis had been responsible for the provision and then removal of bundles at significant cost through a weekly courier collection. Kelby told us that “CaseLines offers a practical, cost and time saving solution to this problem. We save money, and the courts save time by not having to collect, store and hand over the bundles to a courier.”
Digital bundles have been enthusiastically endorsed by judges and lawyers across the UK and approved for use by HMCTS. It’s a proven system that can deliver a fully digitised modern justice system to any UK courtroom, today. Civil lawyers can be part of the transformation to digital, but they must be the ones to lead it.
To learn more about how CaseLines is helping Local Authorities across the UK including Manchester, Oxfordshire, Surrey, North Lincs, Ealing and many more transform their legal services with true digitisation, saving money and improving efficiency, visit www.caselines.com/lgl or call us on 020 3922 0840
CaseLines, developed by Netmaster Solutions Ltd, is the leading global provider of software as a service (SaaS) for the electronic preparation, collaboration and presentation of evidence/legal bundles, documentary and video evidence.
Launched in 2013, CaseLines enables law firms, corporate and local authority legal departments and courts to increase efficiency, reduce costs and improve productivity. Eliminating the direct and indirect costs of paper and PDFs, CaseLines allows courtroom presentation of the bundles without the added cost of a courtroom operator.
CaseLines is used in Civil and Public Law cases and in the Crown Courts across England & Wales, public family law across local authorities including Orbis Public Law (The Legal Services of Brighton and Hove City Council, East Sussex County Council, Surrey County Council and West Sussex County Council working in partnership) as well as the dispute resolution authority for the Dubai International Financial Centre Courts and the Court of Justice of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.
CaseLines platform hold over 300,000 cases, with over 90 million pages of evidence. CaseLines systems deal with hundreds of cases per day, ranging from small public law bundles all the way through to 300,000 page civil trials. There are over 1,200 judges in the UK trained to use CaseLines.