Online Courts and Private and Public Aspects of Open Justice: Enhancing Access to Court or Violating the Right to Privacy?
Keywords:Online Court of England and Wales, open justice, right to privacy, uncontrolled access, digital exclusion
As the technological revolution takes over the world, the justice system is also susceptible to change. The Online Court of England and Wales (‘OC’) is an example of such a step taken in that direction. However, some argue that this has vast implications on access to justice for the ‘digitally excluded’ or the Litigant-in-Persons (LIP). While this argument is warranted, it fails to address the two essential implications of Online Courts: First, the potential of online courts to enhance access to justice by legally empowering LIPs along with enhancing access to court for them (Private Aspect of open justice). Further, such access to court is enhanced for the general public and the media (Public Aspect of open justice) alike. Secondly, the threat of uncontrolled access to online proceedings facilitated by modern avenues like ‘live-streaming’ and ‘live-tweeting’, turning justice into a disruptive one. This article argues that OC is better placed at improving access to justice issues than physical courts, by enhancing both the private and public aspects of open justice. However, enhancing the public aspect also poses major threats to the Right to Privacy of individuals. Further, this article argues that a more nuanced approach towards a future technology-focused justice system needs to balance the public aspect of the open justice principle with the Right to privacy. Hence, this article suggests that regulative and accountability measures like ‘penalty point systems’ should be placed right from the outset to prevent any leakage of sensitive data prompted by uncontrolled access to online courts.
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