More than 20,000 applications for divorce since new service launch in May

More than 20,000 applications for divorce since new service launch in May

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

More than 20,000 applications for divorce have been made online since a new service was launched in May.

Justice Secretary David Gauke said the figure was about 60% of total divorce applications made by people without a lawyer getting involved.

This was an example of how the courts were being modernised, Mr Gauke told the Commons during the second reading of the Courts and Tribunals (Judiciary and Functions of Staff) Bill.

He said: "The measures in this Bill are an important part of our wider £1 billion reform programme that will see our courts and tribunals modernised for the 21st century and our digital age.

"New online services are already providing new routes to justice for many - for example, more than six in 10 of all application for divorce for unrepresented citizens are now being made online since the new service was launched in May.

"That's more than 20,000 people in just six months."


'Potential errors' 

Justice Secretary David Gauke outside of Downing Street. 

Mr Gauke pledged to put the UK's legal system at "the forefront of adopting new technology" such as artificial intelligence (AI).

He said: "AI was used to check a number of contracts to spot potential errors as compared to a group of experienced lawyers and the rate of success of the artificial intelligence was somewhat better than the experienced lawyers, and also this was a task that was able to be done in 26 seconds rather than 92 minutes.

"I make this point to illustrate the opportunities that exist in terms of technology and the law."

Forming part of a wider package of modernisation reforms, measures contained in the Bill include allowing authorised court staff to carry out routine judicial functions in the Crown Court, such as changing the start time of a hearing, so freeing up judges' time.

Calling for more ambition, Labour former Cabinet minister Harriet Harman suggested the Bill could be used as a vehicle to stop rape complainants' sexual history being used in court cases.

Intervening on Tory former minister Bob Neill, Ms Harman said rape victims' previous sexual history could be "dragged" through the courts and used by the defence as a "way of undermining the complainant's evidence".

She said: "Does he agree that this Bill is an opportunity to deal with that problem which we know is actually happening which undermines getting rape convictions?"

But Mr Neill replied: "I'm not convinced that this Bill is the appropriate vehicle for dealing with that issue, though the issue is a real one, simply because the Bill is very tightly drawn in scope and relates to function."