Lawyers have expressed puzzlement over the impending move by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to close justice.gov.uk, and instead publish its content on gov.uk.
This is due to happen over the next two to three weeks, and will include transfer of the Civil, Criminal and Family Procedure Rules and related practice directions to the new site.
Other procedure rules for magistrates’ courts and the crown courts will also migrate to the new site.
While the MoJ website will remain, visitors will be redirected to the new site.
This may seem an innocuous change, but critics say the layout of the procedure Rules on the new site is less user-friendly than previously, which may present practical challenges for lawyers and judges.
Lisa Rivers, a solicitor advocate at Hibberts Solicitors LLP, described the site as “quite cumbersome to use” and expressed concern that litigants in person (LIPs) may find the new layout particularly challenging.
She commented: “I think solicitors will adapt, but litigants in person may struggle to use the site and find what they are looking for.”
This is particularly concerning given that access to justice is at the heart of the MoJ.
On the MoJ site, the Rules were found via one link and listed in full. However, on the gov.uk site, they have been split into groups of 20, with practice directions and parts also separately listed.
Rivers notes: “All the information is there but it takes a while to get to, which is likely to delay matters, especially in court. There seems to be no way of viewing the contents of the CPR as a whole, which was previously very useful.
“The dropdown sections and way the CPR has been divided into segments of 20 are not particularly user-friendly in terms of navigating the site.”
Searching the CPR as a whole appears to be difficult, and users have expressed frustration when navigating between the various parts.
The Rules also lack an index and the pages do not record when changes were made to the Rules.
Many users will undoubtedly be feeding back their experiences to the MoJ and it will be interesting to see whether there are further changes over coming weeks.