In the race to modernity, technology rules

By | 8th December 2011

If you thought that this blog was in danger of a takeover by judicial pronouncements from the USA, here is a short reminder of some recent stories from the UK.

In the race to modernity, the Supreme Court seems likely to allow advocates to dispense with court clothes. Whether this means that lawyers can appear in a collarless shirt and no tie or in Lycra and trainers, we will have to wait and see, but I predict a few arguments before the Bar (and it still is largely the Bar) are allowed to turn up dressed at will. The last case I listened to in the Supreme Court concerned the liberty of the subject and a proposed extradition to the United States to stand trial. I am not sure the applicant would have felt he had had his full deserts if his counsel had been in cords and trainers.

The Attorney-General has been given leave to bring contempt proceedings against the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror over their coverage of the Milly Dowler trial and the conviction of Levi Bellfield. Coming hot on the heels of the harrowing testimony from Milly’s parents and others at the Leveson Inquiry, the decision to take action against the two newspapers ensures that we will not have heard the last of this subject for some time to come. In the circumstances, I think this is probably no bad thing as matters like this tend to be forgotten too easily. I wonder how they will collect all the electronic material which undoubtedly exists. Presumably, the lawyers concerned have already formulated their strategy. It is never too early to do so as decisions made at this preliminary stage can set the tone for the conduct of the case in the future.

Lord Justice Jackson is also back in the news. His reforms to civil justice are currently making their way through Parliament in the form of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill. This seems to be a strange title for the vehicle to make changes to the CPR but its contents, should they become law next year, may be viewed in due course as truly modern and even revolutionary.

The Lawyer of November 23rd 2011 carried an article entitled “Get used to it” setting out the proposals made by Lord Justice Jackson which are at the heart of these reforms. It seems to me that in order to deliver the regime to assist litigants to save money and to ensure judges have the tools properly to manage the cases for which they are responsible, technology will play a large part.

In that sense technology will truly rule, in the rush to modernity.