Guilty or not guilty? Please click here. (Hint — plain English could help)

Melissa Wardell | April 11, 2017

What’s the best way to streamline a court system? How about resolving certain crimes entirely online?

Logging on to enter a plea

As part of a vision paper recently released by the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Justice, a proposal was made to resolve certain cases entirely online. This plan would enable people to log on to a system, see the evidence against them, and enter a plea. It would apply in cases where the crime had been a ‘routine, low-level, non-imprisonable offence with no identifiable victims’.

Plain English would have to play a key part in ensuring this proposed system worked, according to the think tank Centre for Justice Innovation.

Image, Hands on keyboard.

Plain English would ensure the fairness of an online justice system. Image by Skitterphoto / CC0

Plain English essential for guidance

In their response to the Ministry’s idea of an online court, the Centre stressed that ‘clear understanding underpins procedural fairness’. Plain English would play a central role in ensuring this fairness, they said.

‘To achieve that [fairness] in the online conviction and statutory fine system, the system accompanying online guidance needs to be written in plain English and legal terms should be explained clearly.’

Read more about the recommendation that online court guidance ‘needs to be written in plain English’

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