Dispense with lawyers and deal with cases worth up to £25,000 using online courts and case officers, a senior judge has suggested in radical proposals to shake up the civil justice system.

In his interim Civil Courts Structure Review report, Lord Justice Briggs said there is a ‘clear and pressing need’ to create an online court for claims up to £25,000 to give litigants effective access to justice without the ‘disproportionate cost of using lawyers’. Cases will be dealt with in three stages, beginning with a largely automated, interactive online process to identify the issues and lodge documentary evidence, followed by conciliation and case management by case officers, before resolution by a judge.

Responding to the proposals Chairman of the Bar, Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC, accepted that the ‘stranglehold’ of paper ‘needs to be broken’ and agreed that technology has the potential to help reduce the cost and complexity of the court system.

But Doerries warned that removing lawyers from civil proceedings below a certain monetary value might not achieve the desired objectives of the Government’s court reform programme, particularly coming on top of legal aid cuts and increased court fees.

Removing lawyers, she said, ‘effectively means leaving people to fend for themselves, which could result in a denial of justice’, adding that the Bar Council will be examining the proposals very carefully.

The proposals will be considered in a formal consultation, which closes at the end of May, before Briggs’ final review is completed at the beginning of the summer.