The Courts Service is now allowing you to initiate a small claim over the Internet. I was speaking about it on the George Hook Show about it yesterday. It basically allows you to get the ball
rolling online. You still have to show up and file any other papers in writing, as usual.
It is good to see that the work of the Courts is being streamlined in this way (although it is only a first step). At the moment, the courts are a giant paperchase. All the shovelling around of paper takes too much time, and paperwork issues are sometimes used as a shield by lawyers on one side another who just aren’t ready for the big day in court. One big concern though, is that in all this efficency, the right of the public to have access to the courts system could be diminished. One part of that access is the availability of documents relied upon in court.
When Digital Rights Ireland was in court for the subpoena of information about alleged filesharers, there was a raft of written evidence presented, but we didn’t have access to it. As a result, we couldn’t really follow what was going on in court. As Irish citizens, we have a constitutional right to access to these documents. I called the Courts Service spokesman before I went on the radio to ask on this. He says that the issue of making documents relied upon in court available to the media is being pursued by the board of the Courts Service.
The press release also promises that a case management system for the High Court will be made available to the public through the courts.ie website next year. This will be great progress – at present it can be quite difficult to keep an eye on the lists and figure out when a case will be heard.
Anyway, the text of the press release is below (because it isn’t available online anywhere else).
Four Courts, Dublin December 5th 2006 11.00 a.m.; The Courts Service today announced that the procedure for the Small Claims Court has gone online in a total of sixteen Pilot District Court (Small Claims) offices nationwide.
The Pilot offices are Dublin, Swords, Dun Laoghaire Bray, Carlow, Cavan, Clonakilty, Cork, Killarney, Limerick, Listowel, Mallow, Swords, Tralee, Trim, Wexford and Castlebar. Applications can be lodged online in either Irish or English.
From your desktop in areas as far apart as Donegal, Dublin or Dingle your will have an instant access to this small fee, no lawyer and hassle free system – without having to attend at a court office – which may be many miles away and in the past involved a return visit with a completed form
(A briefing note on the Small Claims Process is attached for reference)
The Online system enables complainants to;
Lodge their Small Claims application online without the need to attend or contact their local small claims office
Pay the appropriate court fee online
By logging on to the system through the use of a PIN Number, monitor the progress of their application as it progresses through the small claims process.
In the past four weeks the system has been available online and – even without making it public -21% of all small claims applications received in the Dublin District Court have been lodged using the new online method.
The system will remain in pilot phase until the end of January 2007 and the Courts Service will then commence implementing the system in all 45 Small Claims offices nationwide. This will be completed by the end of April 2007 and at that stage the public throughout the country will have online access to the system.
The system is the culmination of two years work by the Courts Service and is the first ‘beginning to end’, web enabled eGovernment application launched by the Courts Service, to provide on line access to its services.
The convenience offered by the system – whereby the citizen can now lodge a small claims application from the comfort of their own home, or without leaving their busy place of employment – is an important first stage in our plans.
Today’s Small Claims development is strategically important as it opens a new avenue for access to the Courts which will be further developed by the Courts Service.
In 2007 we will make available additional online applications which will allow
The High Court Case Management System will go online and allow access to information on High Court cases be available to lawyers and the public via our website www.courts.ie
We will also introduce a system allowing for the payment of court fines online.
Commenting on the system, Mr P.J. Fitzpatrick, CEO of the Courts Service said,
“this E-court initiative brings about a new level of access to the small claims system; regardless of location or distance from a court office, or the time of day or the day of the week. It opens up possibilities of redress to those who feel wronged in a small commercial transaction. It facilitates those who through busyness, transport or mobility challenges, or who cannot easily attend at a court office, to now, without inconvenience, lodge a claim with the minimum of fuss or red tape.”
Mr John Coyle, Director of Information Technology for the Courts Service said “the system is very user friendly and as it becomes more widely known we expect a significant increase in the number of claims which will be lodged online. Indeed due to the convenience offered by the system, it is possible there may be a significant increase in the overall number of small claims lodged in court offices”.
Last year 2,697 small claims were dealt with. 55% of these claims were settled by the registrar without a court hearing. 310 were decreed by default, 303 were not proceeded with and 560 were sent to court for hearing.
Therefore of the 2,697 cases dealt with in the year, 2114 or 78% were settled or decided in favour of the claimant
Of the 560 cases which went to court 336 were allowed, 76 dismissed and 148 withdrawn or struck out (many had been settled).