LCD launches IT think tank

THE Lord Chancellor's Department (LCD) has set up a think tank to consider ways of improving the use of IT in the civil justice system.

Geoff Hoon, parliamentary secretary at the LCD and former shadow IT spokesman, is to chair a strategy group of eight civil servants and IT professionals. It will be charged with producing a five to 15-year strategy for the use of IT in the civil courts.

The group, which was launched on 4 June, has until September to issue its preliminary report. It will tackle issues such as the ways in which computers can be used to make record-keeping more efficient in the county courts, and the possible use of legal information "kiosks".

Membership of the group is split between department officials, including director of civil justice and legal aid reform Alan Cogbill, and external experts, including The Future of Law author Richard Susskind and Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency chief executive Bob Assirati.

No specific budget has yet been allocated to the group.

An LCD spokesman said the group would consult with bodies such as the Judicial Studies Board, the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux and the Legal Action Group before reaching a decision.

The spokesman added that the government's plans for a community legal service would affect the strategy proposed by the group, although no plans have yet been announced.

Hoon said the group would not develop or manage existing or currently planned IT systems but would act as a "forum to capture and evaluate long-term ideas to inform wider strategic planning".

The Master of the Rolls, Lord Woolf, has said that greater investment and use of IT in the civil courts would be integral to the success of his proposals for increasing access to civil justice.