County Court records could be computerised by next year if a multi-million pound scheme goes ahead.
The Caseman scheme, developed by computer experts at the Lord Chancellor's Department, will translate the thousands of manual record cards stored in county courts into on-screen data.
It will be a module of the present Local County Court System (LCCS) system.
Caseman has been on test at London's Edmonton County Court since August, where staff are said to be enthusiastic about it. If the project is implemented, it would mark a significant step towards total computerisation of the county courts, which has so far been a much-delayed process.
The record cards that will be replaced contain basic details about each case, such as the amount claimed, the amount awarded and main details of the claim.
"If you've got all the information available electronically, it's very easy to access," says an LCD spokeswoman.
The initial reactions from lawyers are positive. Russell Jones & Walker partner Fraser Whitehead - who boycotted the central London court over its administration - says he is in favour of the system.
"Computerisation must be a good thing if it means the court can keep better track of its files," he says. But, he asks: "Will the information on the cards be available to enquiring third parties?"
However, the LCD has already indicated it has no intention of changing its policy of confidentiality regarding the contents of files.
The new system is understood to have been developed with the lessons of the Crest debacle in mind. The u19 million system proved to be slower than the manual system it eventually replaced.