A Paperless Justice System

Paperless Justice System

According to the Department of Justice Action Plan 2021, we are headed for a paperless justice system.

The 2021 Action Plan

Published by the Department of Justice (view 2021 Action Plan) on 22 February 2021 (view press release) the stated objective of the 2021 Action Plan is “to build a justice system that works for everyone”.

The ‘Digital First’ Agenda for the Justice Sector

In her foreword Minister for Justice Helen McEntee says that the plan “sets out our ambition for a justice sector which will innovate and embrace a Digital First agenda.

Planned Digital Transformation

Acceleration of innovation and digital transformation is one of the five areas of action identified in the Action Plan (see page 5).

Digital transformation will be “a key driver of change” in the courts system and the Irish legal system and guidelines will be brought forward for developing judicial skills (see page 18).

Accelerating Innovation & Digital Transformation

Innovation and digital transformation are described in the Action Plan as “vital levers” to deliver the significant reforms identified elsewhere in the plan.

There will be continued investment in Information Management & Technology (IM&T) to reduce the time spent on paperwork across the justice sector – creating an efficient and effective Courts Service and making access to justice easier, cheaper and quicker.

Innovation and excellence will be promoted across the justice sector. High achievement will be recognised and successful approaches will be mainstreamed.

“Through new leadership and innovation strategies we will connect and collaborate across the justice sector to scale successful innovations, develop leadership capacity, mainstream good ideas; and ensure supportive evaluation and quality assurance systems.”

Leaving Paper Behind

We are already seeing some courts adopting paperless methods and requiring the use of digital booklets (see this article on Paperless Courts; see also the Court of Appeal e-Filing Information Notice).

The Action Plan acknowledges that in key service delivery areas there is a reliance on outdated systems and paper based records (see the introductory remarks by Secretary General Oonagh McPhillips). This acknowledgment, in and of itself, is surely a strong sign that the justice system needs to go (and is going to go) paperless.

The Department of Justice has already begun the transition, using the immigration system to “transition from paper-based and labour intensive processes to efficient, robust and customer–centric frontline immigration services, in line with our Digital First policy.”

Conclusion

It remains to be seen whether the actions will mirror the ambition, and whether we will actually see a justice system that is innovative and ‘digital first’. The signs are good.

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