Senate votes in favour of digitisation of legal system

Today, the Senate adopted a total of four bills submitted by Minister Van der Steur (Security and Justice) and implementing digitisation in the legal system. Litigants will be able to submit their procedural documents in digital form in civil and administrative cases. Examples are submitting a divorce petition, a payment dispute or a dispute with the municipal authorities about a permit for assessment by the court. Moreover, civil proceedings have been simplified. The legislation will enter into force in various phases from early 2017 onwards.

The bills form the basis of the Quality and Innovation in the Legal System programme (the so-called KEI programme). This programme is a collaborative effort of the Ministry of Security and Justice and the judiciary to simplify and digitise civil and administrative proceedings. The KEI programme is to result in a more accessible legal system, a system that can work faster and is better able to provide custom solutions.

Litigants will have access to a digital file (‘Mijn Zaak’). This will allow them to follow each step in the process, which will make the proceedings more transparent to them. Lawyers will also benefit from faster digital communication with the court, which is often still done by fax. Citizens conducting legal proceedings without a lawyer will continue to be able to conduct proceedings on paper. An advantage of digitisation for the legal system is that less time will be spent on administration.

Civil proceedings will be simplified, the basic proceedings constituting one written round and one oral hearing before the court, followed by a judgment. The central element is an oral hearing that will take place soon after the beginning of the basic proceedings. The judge thus comes into contact with the parties at an early stage and can ask them for information, hear witnesses or experts and explore any settlement options. In most cases, a judgment will be given within six weeks after the oral hearing.

If a case is complicated, the judge can supplement the basic proceedings with an additional written or oral round. This will allow him to exert more influence on the course of the proceedings, to better anticipate the needs of the litigants and to provide custom solutions.